The Austin-based nine-piece collective of musicians known as Hard Proof are the sole purveyors of African funk in the state of Texas. They don’t just play Afrobeat per se, but funk and jazz music from and inspired by the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
The band started almost on a dare, and a proclamation that they would convene every Sunday morning until an album had been written. After about a year a lineup had materialized featuring members of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, The Calm Blue Sea, Cougar, Ocote Soul Sounds, the Echocentrics, and several other notable Austin acts.
In addition to quickly building a strong reputation of kinetic and incendiary live shows, the band recorded a 4 song demo in November of 2008 at East Austin’s Cacophony Studio. Fall of 2010 saw the release of their 15 song debut garnering a rare 3.5 star review in the Austin Chronicle:
"From the dark psychedelic marauding of "Stolen Goods" to the Ethiopique groove of "Jimma," Hard Proof crafts moody instrumentals that lean more toward Budos Band than Antibalas. A rumbling baritone sax churns the hypnotizing crawl of "Mahout," while the brass (which splits time with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears) blows hard on "No Consideration" and freaks out on "M.E.N.D." The best of the band's brooding grooves border prove Afrobeat is alive in Austin. This debut is Hard Proof."
While the album was well received, there seems to be universal agreement that their live shows are something not to be missed. Austin taste-maker Laurie Gallardo of KUT radio may have put it best: “This local nine-piece ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show, an absolute blowout of non-stop percussion action and blasting brass, bringing the best of both worlds to the stage by mixing classic styles and plenty of their personal panache to own the show.”
As if they weren’t busy enough between Hard Proof and their other bands, the Hard Proof Horns have found work as sidemen with such notables as Spoon, Broken Social Scene, the Walkmen, the Dave Matthews Band, Band of Horses and others.
Plans for Hard Proof in 2012 include hitting the road to play select festivals, and to track some vinyl-only singles with Grupo Fantasma’s Adrian Quesada producing for a Spring release. Hard Proof is primed to bring their singular take on sub-Saharan funk to bigger stages in Austin and the world at large.
Stephen Bidwell - Drums
Derek Phelps - Trumpet, Percussion., Flugelhorn
Jason Frey - Tenor Saxophone and percussion
Joseph Woullard - flute, Baritone Saxophone, and percussion.
Tommy Spampinato - Percussion
Tony Cruz - Congas
Aaron Sleator - Guitar
Joe Sokolik - Bass
Gerardo Larios - Guitar, keyboards
john branch - Guitar, keyboards
Demo 1 - 2008
Hard Proof - s/t 2010
Hard Proof album review 2
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"The task of any Afrobeat ensemble is to first prove that they're well-versed in the classics and th..."The task of any Afrobeat ensemble is to first prove that they're well-versed in the classics and then bring something new to the conversation. Austin ninepiece Hard Proof Afrobeat does exactly that on a stirring self-titled debut that kick-starts with 30 seconds of hard funk fury and closes with a mournful jazz melody over sparse percussion that only loosely operates within the framework of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. From the dark psychedelic marauding of "Stolen Goods" to the Ethiopique groove of "Jimma," Hard Proof crafts moody instrumentals that lean more toward Budos Band than Antibalas. A rumbling baritone sax churns the hypnotizing crawl of "Mahout," while the brass (which splits time with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears) blows hard on "No Consideration" and freaks out on "M.E.N.D." The best of the band's brooding grooves border on the cinematic and prove Afrobeat is alive in Austin. This debut is Hard Proof.
Hard Proof celebrates their debut album tomorrow night (November 19) at the Ghost Room in Austin at 9pm. This review first appeared in this week's edition of the Austin Chronicle."
Hard Proof album review
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"Hard Proof, the self-titled debut album from the Austin, Texas based afrobeat ensemble is a groovta..."Hard Proof, the self-titled debut album from the Austin, Texas based afrobeat ensemble is a groovtastically funky collection of jams that display a range of dynamics and themes.
I've often said, it's much harder to play slow afrobeat well than fast, and this album is a great example of how to execute a dynamic range. Utilizing slow, winding, interlocking guitar grooves, multi-layered percussion, and deep horn arrangements, Hard Proof sets a down-tempo, sinister mood on tracks such as Stolen Goods, Jimma and Mahout. They pick up the tempo on tracks like No Consideration, Buffalo, and Move In, but it's the slower tracks that creep along that truly stick out on this album.
Hard Proof will be celebrating the release of their new album on November 19th at the Ghost Room in Austin. If you're in the Lone Star State and you're hungry for some afro-love, definitely check them out. I haven't seen them live in concert yet, but listening to the album, you can hear their ability to push, build and release the energy of the music from song to song."
Posted by Marc Gabriel Amigone at 10:10 PM
Hard Proof Afrobeat: an emerging local talent
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An element of a quality concert examiner's role is finding new, exciting bands for their readers to...An element of a quality concert examiner's role is finding new, exciting bands for their readers to see perform live. In keeping with that theme, there's a new talent in Austin that has already gotten some international recognition, Hard Proof Afrobeat.
Hard Proof has been featured on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s radio program, The Craig Charles Funk and Soul show. Charles selected Lion of Mali, a track recorded for the band's first demo and posted on their MySpace page to play on air. Conga player, Tony Cruz commented that the song was an original witten by Bari Sax player, Joe Woullard.
What is appealing about Hard Proof is the elements of jazz, funk and african rythmns that they fuse together to create a unique sound. While there are many talented musicians in Austin and an equal number of great bands, Hard Proof offers fans something out-of-the-ordinary in terms of the local music scene.
Several band members have been playing music in Austin for some time. Ari Dvorin currently plays with New Orleans transplant Cyril Neville and several other projects. Tenor sax player, Jason Frey and Cruz have collaborated together on a number of projects, including jazz bands, Collect All Five and Tumbateo.
Currently regular performers at the Flamingo Cantina on Sixth St., Hard Proof is comprised of: Derek Phelps - Trumpet, Ari Dvorin - Alto Sax, Jason Frey - Tenor Sax, Joe Woullard - Bari Sax/Flute, Michael Faircloth - Keys/Organ, Aaron Sleator - Electric Guitar, Ben Eisenberg - Bass, Steve Bidwell - Drums, Tommy Spampinato - Percussion, Tony Cruz - Conga.
If you would like to see a band that makes you dance to driving rythyms, then go check out Hard Proof Afrobeat. Their next show is free to the public at Central Market North on July 5th. To see more dates visit them on Facebook.
Austin Sound Review
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That Hard Proof – formerly and/or still alternately known as Hardproof Afrobeat – exists, much less ...That Hard Proof – formerly and/or still alternately known as Hardproof Afrobeat – exists, much less released an album, is simply amazing. Consider it: in Austin, most bands with just three or four members probably average single digit gigs for the duration of their careers (if you will). Schedules, lives, outside interests, personal and musical differences — all common and valid reasons for promising bands to splinter. So, what were the odds of a band of nine (credited!) musicians sticking around long enough to record an album of fifteen original funky afrobeat tunes? These guys play in bands as wide ranging as The Calm Blue Sea, the Bruce James Soultet and 100 Flowers and as well traveled as Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, yet they somehow found time for Hard Proof. Beyond amazing.
Across their self-titled debut, Hard Proof play a remarkably consistent blend of funk, afrobeat, and jazz. Horn and brass driven, as expected, the band’s songs feature the afrobeat genre’s trademark snaking guitars and poly-rhythms (laid down by a drummer and an army of percussionists) across a few moods; Upbeat hip shakers rub elbows with the slower darker turns, but the songs flow naturally. On songs like “No Consideration” and “Buffalo”, the horns take a step back, letting Gerado Larios and Aaron Sleator’s guitars and keyboards ratchet up the heat a bit. On these songs – and “Bailwick” in particular – it’s hard to imagine the listener who could resist the urge and stand like a statue. And what about when the band slows down – ever so slightly – on “Move In”? Well, those same listeners still aren’t going to stop dancing to the groove.
The real fun, and accomplishment, of Hard Proof’s debut isn’t that they recorded fifteen really good original songs or that they did so while peppering Austin with the other gigs. No, the fun is that they also injected these songs with bits of their personal musical heritage; When “Stolen Goods” twists off into psychedelia and “Buzz Bizz” turns from meandering to sultry, Hard Proof transform from followers and students into teachers and creators. They deserve all the credit possible for achieving much more than any outsider could have ever guessed.
Austin Statesmen Review
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Austin’s nine-piece answer to New York’s Budos Band has, both ironically and appropriately, slimmed ...Austin’s nine-piece answer to New York’s Budos Band has, both ironically and appropriately, slimmed down its name in recognition of fattening its sound. Although the gentlemen formerly known as Hard Proof Afrobeat still pay plenty of tribute to Kutis Fela and Femi, their deep-grooving 15-song debut finds the band widening its territory beyond Afrobeat’s Nigerian origins to the entire continent of Africa — and beyond.
But even if you don’t know your soukous from your makossa, you can still appreciate the touches of jazz and deep funk that characterize “Hard Proof.” The band assembles grooves both intricate and relaxed, from the uptempo “Bailiwick” to the lounge-y “Mahout.” And for all of Hard Proof’s extracurricular activities — its members play in bands as diverse as One Hundred Flowers and the Calm Blue Sea, and the horn section’s been road-tested something fierce with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears — the band’s evolved into such a tight ensemble that you’d expect they never rehearse with anyone else.
KUT Mohawk Preview
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Hard Proof Afrobeat is one of the very few groups in Texas that plays African funk – many would argu...Hard Proof Afrobeat is one of the very few groups in Texas that plays African funk – many would argue the only band in Texas that does so.
Their specialty is funk and jazz that borrows from sounds out of sub-Saharan Africa, and rhythmic drumming originating from Southern Nigeria. It’s an explosion of multiple horns, melodies and rhythms that groove and sway, an homage to the revolutionary father of Afrobeat Fela Kuti. This local nine-piece ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show, an absolute blowout of non-stop percussion action and blasting brass, bringing the best of both worlds to the stage by mixing classic styles and plenty of their personal panache to own the show. This pretty much follows the way they, in their own words, describe what they do: “Internationally inspired, locally produced.”
Onion AV Club 9/1/11
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"Hard Proof Afrobeat are not the only Austin band with international aspirations, but the average ba..."Hard Proof Afrobeat are not the only Austin band with international aspirations, but the average band fronted by a jazz studies major has only a fighting chance of being half as good as this Fela Kuti-influenced but genre-busting supergroup of strong performers. Including players in Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Echocentrics, and Calm Blue Sea, Hard Proof excels in putting on a high-energy, dance-y shows that betray a careful ear toward a diverse subset of musical styles and approaches. The band’s self-titled album debuted last year, and the band has been performing regularly since the release."
approx. 1:30 mostly originals, some covers.
Let's Start-Fela Kuti
Everything Must Have a Name-Stephen Bidwell
Bukom Mashie-Oscar Sulley
Just Dessert-Derek Phelps
Black Man's Cry-Fela Kuti
Raw Raw-Jason Frey
Move In-Derek Phelps
African Jive-Dick Khoza
Lion of Mali-Joseph Woullard
Soul Makossa-Manu DiBango
Stolen Goods-Jason Frey
Lady Frustration-Fela Kuti
No Consideration-Derek Phelps
There are no upcoming dates at this time.