You Should Consider The Conglomerate’s “Merger”
There is a relatively new player on the scene, and already they have made a big splash. It’s probably not surprising that a band calling itself The Conglomerate would title their debut album Merger.
Who the heck ARE The Conglomerate? That’s what we all wondered at last year’s Orange Blossom Jamboree, the annual showcase of Florida music held in May. We had no idea, but we were about to find out. The day had started off with a bang, and then…
The second jaw-dropper was taking place on the Citrus Stage with The Conglomerate. The feeling was very much like the first time hearing Ghost-Note, except that TheCon PS, as they abbreviate for the interwebs, features three (3) THREE keyboard players playing at least ten keyboards, especially synths. This was funk to the power of funk.
No doubt you’ve had a few of the moments where you encounter a band you’ve never heard or never heard OF, and they blow you away. That was the impression this superb band made. For those old enough to remember the ’70s fusion scene as it unfolded, these gentlemen fit there perfectly. So many influences pour out of their music.
Merger was recorded by Robert Wawoe at Phat Planet Studios in Orlando; he mixed and mastered the project for Mixlabs. Shavonn Blueitt handled the artwork and design, using photographs by Arthur Brown.
The Conglomerate are: Keith Phelps, organ, synthesizer; Ed Anderson, Rhodes, synthesizer; Keith A. Phelps, synthesizer, Moog, many things!; Daniel Kelley Howard, electric guitar; Daven-Roy Llewellyn, bass; and James Adkins, drums.
The rhythm section is truly dynamic, both in concert and here on the recording. Llewellyn’s bass provides that deliciously funky low end, and Adkins is simply a madman on kit. They provide a rock-solid bass for all of the shenanigans by Howard on guitar and the keyboard trio.
The first four minutes of “Prez Power” are a spacey sonic delight, but be forewarned: they’re setting you up to knock you down with some deep funky grooves. Synths Gone Wild. Think Les McCann. George Duke. David Sancious. There is a brief pause, and then the band comes roaring back for a big finish, Howard shredding like mad.
“Freehand” similarly starts at a very mellow pace, Llewellyn stating the theme before Keith on organ and Keith A. on clavinet makes this a sheer delight. Then the tempo reverts to the original with piano out front, before switching back to the bouncy groove.
“Convince Me” begins with a nasty synth bass line before the synths jump in on a bouncing mid-tempo groove. Adkins’ accents are perfect. Anderson’s Fender Rhodes piano gets a feature as the band brings it on down behind him. That’s followed by a synth passage, a brief drum feature, and then repeat of piano and synth, the most mellow tune on the album.
Fasten your seatbelts! Howard’s chunky funky guitar sets up a mind-blowing rhythm set up by bass and drums with synths along for the ride as “Joy” emerges. The guitar solo is spot on. This is a romp!
“Miami Morning” is another set-up by these crafty guys. The intro is a lovely ballad, mid-tempo. Suddenly, clavinet and guitar jump into the action. Bass and drums pump it up, then bring it back down.
“Head-On” is a freight train of a tune, Adkins’ drums and Llewellyn’s bass rolling down the tracks. They go through some starts and stops, the synths are everywhere, and the groove is beyond infectious.
The Conglomerate will play Thursday at the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival. At the end of March, they will be part of the Dunedin Brewery Spring Beer Jam, and they will return to Orange Blossom Jamboree in May. They have a series of shows scheduled at Blue Bamboo in Winter Park, and there will be much more to come for this outstanding sextet.
This is one Merger you ought to consider seriously!
02/27St. Petersburg Jazz Festival | The Palladium | St. Petersburg FL
03/28Dunedin Brewery Spring Beer Jam | Dunedin FL
05/15Orange Blossom Jamboree | Brooksville FL
05/17Lagniappe | Miami FL
06/09Blue Bamboo | Winter Park FL
08/08Blue Bamboo | Winter Park FL
10/10Blue Bamboo | Winter Park FL
12/12Blue Bamboo | Winter Park FL