Let freedom ring 

Think globally, dance locally with the Global Funk Council

As if you needed a good reason to get down. Good music is inherently holy and needs no higher justification, but if moving to the music helps resolve critical global issues, so much the better. This week in Missoula there is good cause to dance—the Freedom Days Festival, a benefit concert for the Global Justice Action Summit, also known as Global JAS (read “global jazz”). The event is sponsored in part each year by Amnesty International and is a celebration of human rights. This year’s lineup includes a few top musical acts and speakers who will give timely talks on globalization and global economic policies.

Timely for two reasons. First, the Global JAS conference is being held in Missoula from June 20–24. This is a conference/festival on sustainable alternatives to corporate globalization. Timely as well because the G8 Summit is taking place in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada on June 26 and 27, the theme of which will be development issues in Africa. Among the speakers at Freedom Daze are representatives of The Witnesses for Peace program as well as Amnesty International and Community Action and Justice in the Americas (CAJA).

So who’s supplying the groove to support this vision for a better world? Who better than the Global Funk Council? The Global Funk Council is a group still in its infancy which nonetheless has its finger on the pulse of the planet. GFC’s shows have been likened to their own little jazz fests. Although the group only recently formed, most jazz and funk fans will recognize its members as veterans of the scene, each of whom is amazing in his own right and contributes to the eclectic feel of the whole. They play their own style of urban dance music with a deep funk rhythm and elements of jazz, reggae and Latin music. Truly unique is their ability to couple intelligent lyrics with their grooves.

The band was formed by keyboardist Anthony Smith of Giant People. He’s a talented player as well as composer and arranger who manages to fit all the band’s musical puzzle pieces together. On drums is Eric Bolivar from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Bolivar is a master who draws inspiration from many sources. He is particularly influenced, as is keyboardist Anthony Smith, by String Cheese Incident, but has also played with Widespread Panic, Rusted Root, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Franti and Spearhead, DJ Logic, Bela Fleck, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Bob Weir, Tony Lindsey (of Santana) and Robert Walters. Splitting the time with him on percussion is Steve Haney, formerly of the Greyboy Allstars. Steve has studied with masters in Havana, Cuba and has played with the Brand New Heavies, Ozomatli, and the Sol E Mar Samba School. And if they played with a Samba school, you know they have the funk credentials.

On guitar is Dan Schwindt, whose inventive phrasings add musical wit to the mixture. On bass is Jonathan Stoyanoff, who did five years at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and now applies his technical virtuosity with reckless abandon. Maybe somebody remembers the stand-in bassist who played with the David Grisman Quintet the last time they were in town? That’s the guy. That was, I believe, only his second show with them. Amazing. You have to be on top of your game to hang with that band no matter how long you’ve been playing.

The GFC is one of the leading bands helping to develop the improvisational approach to funk and are earning a name for themselves real fast. To have them here in our little park will be a real treat. All the more reason to head down to Caras on Sunday and move your body. In the process you can learn more about the much-hyped, anxiously anticipated and extremely important G8 meetings that are approaching and the haze of global policies and implications that surround them.

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