Miles Davis once quipped, “I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” Butcher Brown has released forward-thinking and expansive hybrids of jazz and hip-hop since 2013. Today, they have an apt descriptor for their songs: solar music. Drawing inspiration from every sound under the sun, the Richmond, VA band adds elements of funk, soul, and rock to their foundational mix. The result is a Southern-leaning, sometimes psychedelic fusion that feels fresh yet familiar. Simultaneously working within and defying genre conventions, Butcher Brown is a jazz festival mainstay that could tour with Tyler, the Creator as easily as Khruangbin.
“We get daps from the jazz cats, the rap scene, the indie scene, and everyone else,” says drummer Corey Fonville. Every Butcher Brown album, show, and improvisational leap therein stems from the synergy, vision, and inexhaustible musical curiosity of him and his bandmates: producer/multi-instrumentalist DJ Harrison; bassist/composer Andrew Randazzo; trumpeter/saxophonist/MC Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney; and guitarist Morgan Burrs.
The band’s past begins in Richmond, where several members attended VCU’s jazz program, and
everyone mixed in the city’s vibrant music scene. Between classes and performances at local clubs, all congregated at Harrison’s home studio: Jellowstone. Jam sessions bled into blunt-passing smoke sessions soundtracked by beat tapes from renowned Richmond producer Ohbliv, D’Angelo’s sensual, funky and forward-thinking neo-soul, and saxophonist Joe Henderson’s Power to the People. All culminated in Butcher Brown’s 2014 debut, All Purpose Music, a 76-minute jazz-driven odyssey into every genre at the band’s disposal.
That spark fueled a beat tape (Grown Folk, 2015), southern-inflected soul and rock excursions (The Healer, 2015 and Virginia Noir, 2016), a raucous live album (Live at Vagabond, 2017), jazz-funk fusion (Camden Session, 2018), and an Afrobeat tribute (Afrokuti, 2018). After tours with Galactic, Lettuce, and jazz giant Kamasi Washington, Butcher Brown turned a corner with their Concord Jazz debut, 2020’s #KingButch. They recorded at Jellowstone and abandoned worries about creating songs that would be easily replicable live, blurring the lines between soul-jazz and boom-bap, eliminating the divide between P-funk and modern funk, and transforming rap-meets-bossa nova amalgams into kaleidoscopic psychedelia. With Tennishu rapping, the band was in new territory and closer to their roots than ever. Their catalog-spanning NPR Tiny Desk Concert, crowd-packing European tour, and inspired, Alex Isley-assisted cover of Patrice Rushen’s “Remind Me” in 2021 proved their range remained limitless, unbound by genre and time.
Describing the group’s journey, bassist Andrew Randazzo says, “Over the years, everything about this band has become more refined and mature — from the playing and producing to recording — but the soul was there from the beginning… We already had the spark.”