Professor Louie and the Crowmatrix – Strike Up the Band
Woodstock Records – 2022
10 tracks; 41:41
The beauty of The Band was how they seamlessly blended so many voices and instruments, creating lovely cohesion out of disparate sounds. Professor Louie and the Crowmatrix show a similar ability on Strike Up the Band, their 16th album.
The sonic resemblance to the Band makes sense when you learn that Louie, born Aaron Hurwitz, spent time in their orbit, producing their final three albums, as well as touring with them. Strike Up the Band is a Band-like swirl of sounds, with beautiful musical moments popping out of the mix, even if you’re sometimes unsure of who played what.
“Work It Out” is a strong piano groove, augmented with organ. Hurwitz’s vocals are strong, more than enough to carry the song, and Miss Marie’s backing vocals sweeten the track. The Woodstock Horns make the beat even sharper, providing a punch which propels the tune. The arrangement, by drummer Gary Burke, is incredible, with the individual instruments audible and playing against each other. Where too many horn charts sound like a keyboard preset, here you can get a sense not just of the instruments, but even the personalities of the players behind them.
“Good to Be Grateful” has a ’50s bounce. This number, like “Work It Out,” uses a strong piano riff, but the vocals, which seem to include the entire band, give the song an almost spiritual energy. It also helps that the chorus is catchy as anything, something you’ll be humming to yourself long after the tune ends.
While most of the album’s tracks have a Band vibe, they don’t all sound like tunes the Band might have recorded. One exception is “End of the Show,” which has a grandeur and sadness that sounds like something the Band might have tracked themselves. From the rickety rhythm, to the guitar that pops up like a cowlick, to the piano and organ clamoring to take control of the song, it’s a beautiful tune.
The Band pulled from so many sources to create their signature sound, so it makes sense that so many other bands have been inspired by them, and similarly borrowed from the Band’s influences, as well as the Band themselves. What’s cool about Strike Up the Band is the quality of the curation. Hurwitz’s time with The Band allows him to effectively re-create their sound. It also helps that the Crowmatix is super tight and talented. Which brings us to another of the album’s strengths: Burke’s horn arrangements, which are breathtakingly bold and nuanced. Taken together it’s a fun album that Band fans will appreciate.