Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra
Gig Seeker Pro

Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra

Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF | AFM

Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Hip Hop Funk




"Grand Masters of Funk"

Whatzup – Battle of the Bands XI – Winning Article

It’s fitting that this year’s Battle of the Bands XI competition ended on September 11. Normally, the competition doesn’t stretch into the last few weeks leading up to the official start of autumn, but there was uncertainty as to whether or not there would be a Battle of the Bands XI this year. With whatzup scaling back its involvement this year, it was left to Richard Reprogle of Columbia Street West and Bob Roets of Wooden Nickel Records to organize and manage the competition, now in its 11th year. That meant some changes, including a screening process in order to ensure that there would be a certain quality to the bands that would perform rather than the come one-come all approach of previous years. Reprogle said that if he saw a positive attitude in what the bands wrote down in their description on the application, and if he was already familiar with them, they would stand a greater chance of being allowed to participate. “I made a lot of phone calls, and we got a few bands that I didn’t know, but most of them I knew and already had a relationship with them,” Reprogle said. The quality-over-quantity approach seemed to work, at least according to Roets, who said this year’s competition was among the best he’s seen in the seven years he has been a judge.

The competition’s eventual winners, Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra would probably agree, as band leader Aaron King acknowleged in an interview some weeks ago that “the competition we’re going against is no joke.” Nor are Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra. For a nine-member orchestra that’s only about six months old at this point, the group has already distinguished themselves in the local music scene as being one of the premiere acts of their chosen genre. With a single, “Elevatin’ the Funk,” and a victory in this season’s Battle of the Bands XI competition, the group has achieved some remarkable feats in a relatively short amount of time. “It has really morphed into something even bigger than what I anticipated, and it’s been a lot quicker than I anticipated too,” King said, “We did Rock the Plaza with the Freak Brothers, we did a show with Hillbilly Casino, and we did a show with Orgone at the Botanical Conservatory. Those are pretty big shows for somebody just starting out.” King describes the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra as having more of a hip-hop feel while retaining the characteristics of classic funk. The group performs original tunes composed in the style of classic P-funk (a term coined by funk legends, Parliament-Funkadelic) as well as covers of classic gangsta funk hits to give their setlist more variety and accessibility. King believes the audience responds better to the band’s original material. “Everybody wrote out their own part, and it just fits like a glove,” he said. “It’s genuine, and it’s really the music that we’re feeling.” Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra consists of nine members, all of whom are veterans of the local music scene. Handling percussion are Jamont Simmons on drums, Dave Latchaw on piano, Will Brown on congos and Drake Bates on bass. The horn section includes Aaron King on trombone (and the occasional rap verse), Jason Westerman on trumpet and Quincy Sanders on alto and soprano saxophones. To round out the lineup, Dave “Catfish” Pagan plays guitar and sings backing vocals, and Tony Didier sings lead vocals. Didier was the first person King contacted about forming Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra earlier this year, and from there it was just a matter of seeing who else he knew that would be on board to join the band. According to King, not a whole lot of persuasion was necessary to form this supergroup of sorts. “It didn’t even seem like a question. It seemed like it was meant to be.” It helped that King was looking for personalities that would fit, as well as musical chops. “I really wanted to put together a conglomerate of the best people I knew, and not just good players, but people who were low maintenance and are easy to get along with,” he said. “That’s why to me it’s so special, because there’s no drama. Nobody’s bringing any outside garbage into our organization. Everybody here is real low key. They all work hard and play their butts off, and that’s my favorite part of it,” he said. Cooperation among band members also means that writing songs is a collaborative effort where no one member is responsible for writing all of the music. According to King, everything the audience hears the band perform was written by the people playing it. The work ethic of the members and lack of internal drama has contributed towards the band’s success, but that doesn’t mean they don’t encounter some challenges along the way. Latchaw said that one of the challenges includes finding enough time to practice. “We’re all busy, and we have a lot of projects going, but when you have this collection of people, there’s a lot of us to organize. So the size of the band, that’s a bit of a challenge. But it’s an orchestra,” he laughed. Early on in Battle of the Bands XI, Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra made an impression with both audiences and judges. One distinction that set them apart from other competitors was the fact that they were the only funk band competing this year. Another distinctive element was their years of experience on stage. “They all represent some of the finest artists in their particular instrument in town and to get them all together and on stage is great,” says Roets. “When they’re in the groove, it’s a great thing to see.”

The battle may be finished, but Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra have more gigs lined up in the coming months, performing at venues such as the Phoenix, Rack and Helens in New Haven, Piggy’s in Angola and yes, Columbia Street West. They have also been working on writing, organizing and rehearsing enough original material for a full-length LP which King hopes to release by summer 2015. For now, the group feels blessed to have won Battle of the Bands with such formidable contenders in the mix.

Colin McCallister

Copyright 2014 Ad Media Inc. - Whatzup Magazine

"Downtown with the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra"

There are seven core members of the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — quite a large band, and a potential nightmare dynamics-wise. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. This group of musicians really makes it work by checking egos at the door, and honing-in on the theory that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching and interviewing the Ft. Wayne Funk Orchestra (here known as FWFO) play a show at Columbia Street West. I’ve been friends with Dave Pagan, FWFO’s lead guitarist, for a long time. He had taught me many lessons along the way, not only about playing music, but the finer points of being an entertainer, and he filled me in on the finer points of the FWFO.

Watching FWFO on stage, it’s difficult to figure out who the “leader” is, but behind the scenes, Pagan and the rest of the group point to Aaron King, trombone player and vocalist. It was King who started it all, calling FWFO’s lead vocalist Tony Didier and telling him it was time to collect a band of assassins to take the local funk scene by storm. They made a list of potential members and devised a plan of attack to launch the FWFO.

Last Spring the band got together and jammed about 2 or 3 times with a planned gig in May at the Precious Blood Funk Festival, but was interrupted by the Covington Bar & Grill. The owner of Covington offered them a Saturday night of “Paid Practice” that turned out to be the band’s first gig. After being talked into doing another gig the very next Saturday at Covington, the band was off and running.

But though King is the classic leader of the band — a frequent response I heard from band members to various questions was “Aaron takes care of that stuff” — I get the feeling King isn’t going to appreciate me using the term “leader.” He is a guy who doesn’t seem to want credit for anything but is happiest when the band is playing and having fun. While King often does a lot behind the scenes for the band, he doesn’t see it as working harder than anyone else; rather, he just makes sure everyone has ample opportunity to jump on that stage and do what make them each tick.

To be where these guys are both as individuals and a band like this one, they need to live for the music. Having an “Aaron” is the only way to make it work without having lots of cooks in a very small kitchen.

Each member of the band brings a special artistry to the FWFO as they each resemble a hand crafted puzzle piece in a complex jigsaw of high energy funk. Ego has no place in this band as each member both understands the larger picture, and is humble enough to embrace their role. Yet each member’s colorful personality is easy to see on stage.

On stage, the rhythm section lays down the groundwork as the keys, horns, guitar, and vocals wrap themselves around the beat. It’s literally impossible to NOT shake what you got while they take you through a series of portals from 1970’s drippy funk to grooving soul music and today’s hottest songs like “Uptown Funk.” Add in a little bit of Snoop and some Dr. Dre, while keeping some Marvin Gaye kicking, they can really keep the party going all night long.

The cover tunes are great and all, but what really blew me away were FWFO’s original songs. They blend in so well with the rest of the set list the crowd is left wondering what famous tune they are listening to.

The original music grows mostly from improvisational jams where each man writes his own part, then quickly turns into a premeditated, meticulously planned out work of art. They guys told me at the end of the night sometimes they just throw out a riff or rhythm and everyone starts to jump on it. This will in turn become the framework for the next musical masterpiece, a sort of blank canvas with a complete pallet of oil paints ready to go. This comes effortlessly from this group due to the confidence each member has with the guy next to him. It’s this confidence that really brings out the difference between FWFO and a band that is just trying to hang on instead of truly flying high.

The band really wants to focus on originals and is constantly writing before, during, and sometimes after each gig. Aaron and the guys told me they plan to record a few songs this spring and are working toward having an album out by the midway point of this year. The recording process for the FWFO is a bit out of the norm compared to most bands as they record in a live setting. Asked why this is their preference I got the answer of just look at how we write and play everything. To truly be honest and keep the feel of the orchestra coming through the recording they have to record just like a live show. This all goes back to the concept of the FWFO — individually they are all great players, but when put together they make an exceptional team.

By Greg Jackson 2015-03-19 - Fort Wayne Reader


Still working on that hot first release.



Funk Band For The Common Man

From Fort Wayne Indiana the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra brings you world class Funk, Hip Hop, R&B; and Soul music from the 70's to todays greatest hits. Formed in 2014 by Aaron King the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra have achieved some notable success early in their development. Performing shows with Hillbilly Casino, Orgone at the Botanical Conservatory, Rock the Plaza and on a regular basis performing shows at such great music venues as Columbia Street West and The Phoenix. The band also spent time in the studio recording their first song, the single, “Elevatin’ the Funk,”. In-addition the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra are the 2014 - Battle of the Bands XI Winners. According to Wooden Nickel owner and Battle of the Band judge, Bob Roets “They all represent some of the finest artists in their particular instrument in town and to get them all together and on stage is great,” “When they’re in the groove, it’s a great thing to see.” When King started the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra he was looking for personalities that would fit, as well as musical chops, low maintenance and easy to get along with. King describes the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra as having more of a hip-hop feel while retaining the characteristics of classic funk. The group performs original tunes composed in the style of classic P-funk (a term coined by funk legends, Parliament-Funkadelic) as well as covers of classic gangsta funk hits to give their set list more variety and accessibility. The Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra is an act that brings you a sonic tapestry of musical diversity including their own music and other great artists - bands like Average White Band, Chicago, Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire, Biggie Smalls, Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, Rick James, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder and more.

Band Members