There’s a lot to like about Southern California. Palm trees, sandy beaches, surf-able waves, bright lights of big cities, vineyards, the Channel Islands, Joshua Tree National Park, the special weirdness of Venice Beach…and a musical history and legacy second-to-none. Surf Rock. The California Sound. Breezy SoCal folk. Chicano Rock. West Coast hip-hop. And, swinging, funky California Soul.
For the last twenty years, Jake Najor has been living, breathing, and holding down SoCal’s modern-day, classic funk/soul/R&B scene from behind the kit — as a master session drummer, beat-maker, collaborator and contributor on scores of tracks and records, and bandmember of legendary SoCal groups, including one my all-time favorites: Breakestra.
Now, he’s headlining his own project — Jake Najor and the Moment of Truth — and will celebrate the release of the group’s debut LP In the Cut tomorrow, March 29.
The album is chock-a-block full of soul and groove goodness, all driven by Najor’s crisp, tight, relentlessly funky drumming. Exhibit A is Police Chase, the newest advance single off the upcoming LP premiering here on WtMM.
I submit it is physically impossible for your body to remain still listening to this track. It’s Pavlovian. From head-nodding, to toe-tapping, to hip-thrusting, things will move. After an opening snare riff, Najor’s sets a quick pace with a highly syncopated back-beat, introduces an electric guitar counter beat, and then — good lord — the Hammond B3 organ comes screaming in. There are a couple of short, bright horn blasts, a breakdown for a chorus, a repeat of the verse, and then a fade out. It’s all over in a trim, and slightly breathless, 1:59.
Jake writes about this song, “Growing up I was always a fan of action movies and TV shows. This is a tribute to some of those classic scenes.” And, he nails it. This is ready-made for a movie score. The pace and rhythm are propulsive, there’s a rush of excitement and energy, and then that fade out is like the sound of a siren wailing off into the distance, keeping up the chase or moving onto the next scene.
As for the rest of the record, there is not let-up in quality. The vibe bobs-and-weaves between tight grooves, easy-flowing soul, and stone cold funk workouts (notably, the lead single High Costa Living, featuring the singular gritty vocals of Breakestra’s Mixmaster Wolf). But, all the while, Najor keeps a tight rein on the proceedings and submits a masterclass in the SoCal soul/funk sound he’s cultivated his entire career.
Jake Najor and the Moment of Truth’s new LP In The Cut will be released on vinyl, CD, digital and streaming formats on March 29th via The Redwoods Music. Click here to order.