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The best kept secret in music


"La Push, "Baby" review"

La Push
Seattle's Maktub has amassed a mighty following for its modern take on funky rhythm and blues. Frankly? La Push, led by Bellingham's Joel Ricci, writes better songs with more -tangible soul.
Although both bands are popular live draws, their craft has a less-solid track record on CD. The last record to break from the same so-called "Neo-Soul Underground" arguably was Cody ChesnuTT's ambitious yet esoteric "The Headphone Masterpiece" in 2002 - and when have we last heard from him? Even Maktub's "Khronos" has been released no less than three times.
Our little "Baby," though, succeeds where those CDs don't. Recorded with an ear for a "live sound," the group's 10-song collection neither suffers from over-production nor bothers with the canned-tape-hiss bizness of the ChesnuTT CD.
It's solid soul, with Ricci's voice breaking, shaking and baking like Prince in his prime. Only on "Bagelry Girls" - thankfully split in two, one instrumental and one vocal track - does he approach G. Love-style silliness.
Be sure to check La Push's version of "Always on My Mind" - a holdover cover from Ricci's days with the Lucky Seven.
La Push plays Saturday night at the 3B Tavern and May 28 at Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro; Westsound Record Co., 3109 Cottonwood Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225.
Reach Tony Stasiek at or 715-2279
- The Bellingham Herald

"La PUSH: A Movement Grows in Bellingham"

By Laura Vitale
Dec. 18th 2003

Everyone gives a little and gains a lot when they go to a show of Bellingham’s most popular band, La PUSH. Joel Ricci, the band’s artistic director, points to a childhood experience that revealed to him the essence of communal musical experiences. Living on the Tulalip reservation in western Washington, the young Ricci attended a pow wow. “I remember asking a guy next to me why this woman was crying. I mean she was wailing, throwing her body around. ‘Well, she’s got the spirit,’ he replied.” Later, in high school, he was fascinated by the similar behavior he found at punk rock shows. Since then, his bands have succeeded in creating a space for the spirit to move. The most recent, and the most successful, is La PUSH.

It’s been one year since La PUSH was born. La PUSH is many different people at different times, but currently the core members are: Zach Stewart on guitar, Don Goodwin on keyboards, Scott Goodwin on drums, Bob Rees on percussion, Josh Clifford on saxophone, John Meloy on baritone sax (former member Izzy just left for Africa!) and artistic director Joel Ricci on trumpet and lead vocals. These talented and high-energy musicians are part of a large network of regional and international musicians, each involved in one or more other musical projects. Thus it’s surprising that of the dozen shows they’ve played, virtually all of them have been in Bellingham. Ricci explains that the band was created by, and for, Bellingham, the town that has given him so much support throughout his musical career. “We’re recording an album and I’m paying for it entirely from tips I made working at La Fiamma. Bellingham is absolutely an integral part of La PUSH.”
And vice versa. La PUSH never fails to draw a full house, and the one-year anniversary show I attended at the Wild Buffalo on December 4 was packed and ready to celebrate. Since its inception, La PUSH has become more than just entertainment- it is a musical voyage. The band doesn’t just play for the audience; it invites it on board.

Joel Ricci explains: “La PUSH is not just the musicians on stage, but everybody in the room. La PUSH is everything that we’re experiencing at that moment. I believe that every town should have a funk band. Not a band in today’s sense of face recognition, but a band that doesn’t have a specific identity. The funk message is that everyone can make funk. In the sixties and seventies, locally produced funk shows provided people with a place within the socio-political environment where they could make music, dance, and forget their troubles.”

Still, Ricci’s songwriting methods are sophisticated. He employs the principle of simplicity, which makes opening up and letting go easy. “You can look at each song as a wheel. Every band member is a gear moving with the wheel of the song. If one musician decides to change the direction, I will close off and not allow myself the selfless feeling that is being in the groove. Improvisation is about trust. We send that message to the rest of La PUSH, the audience, that whatever they are doing, dancing, singing, shouting, or clapping along, the band will support them. I see the audience as a charging train, while the band lays down the railroad track ahead. We have to keep going.”

Like a train, the audience needs time to build up that speed. Ricci began the December 4th show with a slow ten-minute bass, guitar and key line, the first part of the seductive Bellingham original song ‘Bagelry Girls.’ It certainly was not your typical flashy start to a rock and roll show. Rather, the meditative beginning unified the musicians, drew attention to the stage, and ceremoniously built up a taught anticipation. Ricci held the audience in this agonized state until he felt that everyone was ready to leave the station. He takes his role as band-audience liason quite seriously. “I really believe that the groove is a vehicle to the spirit world.” But what is ‘the groove?’ “Ah, that’s the thing. There are a lot of parallels between ‘the groove’ and ‘spirit.’ Neither one can be clearly defined. Just as spirit is more than just the absence of matter, the groove is more than just the beat or the breath.” Midway through the show, the audience found its voice. We were taking part in a group celebration of self-love and empowerment during the call-and-response song “La PEOPLE.” While the drums and percussion team led the keys, guitars and bass along a fast-paced tempo, Ricci cried out “Who do we have in the house tonight?” Hundreds of voices hollered back in unison: “La PEOPLE!” “Who has the power?” And so on. The horns represented with enthusiastic riffs and the entire house was making music together. I had never felt the two hundred and fifty members of La PUSH more united. Ricci agreed: “For me, the deeper the band travels into the groove, the more the mate - Bellingham Weekly

"La Push it, La Push it real good"

Joel Ricci, center, gets the crowd swinging with some help from the nine-man band La Push. The band played May 14 at the Wild Buffalo.
By Seamus Burke
May 21, 2004

A trumpet player's sweat-soaked brown hair stuck to his forehead, masking the veins that popped out as his puffed-up cheeks started to turn red. His trumpet waved back and forth over the crowd of spinning, twisting college students with sundresses and dreadlocks circling through the air. Each note sent shockwaves surging through the packed crowd, making hands fly up and feet explode in every direction as if the faded wooden floor was made of ice. The red glow from the overhead lights intensified the heat in the room, and not a single shirt was dry, yet no one seemed to care.
The nine-man band, La Push, crammed the stage of the Wild Buffalo May 14 with trumpets, saxophones, bass guitars, drum sets, bongos, a keyboard and a flute. The show was the CD release party for "Baby," Joel Ricci's first recording with the new Westsound Recording Co. label. The album is a tangible expression of the band's eclectic style, Ricci said.
"Just the process of us struggling through all these concepts, and then there's this album left behind," Ricci said. "It's art; it's like a painting. There's shapes and layers and contrasts."
At the show Ricci put the hard work behind him and celebrated the release of "Baby." Dancing around center stage, Ricci mastered the music like puppet strings to stir the crowd into a frenzy with a seemingly endless jam session before slamming it to a halt and starting the next tune.
"Thank you guys so much, you are really giving us incredible energy, and we're going to try to do the best we can to harness that and give it right back," Ricci said during a song break.
Judging by the nonstop dancing, including several break dancers, La Push succeeded in sending the flow of energy right back to the tireless crowd.
Ricci's original plan for La Push was to create an album and not focus on live shows, said Isaac Weiser, a saxophone, flute and bass player in the band. But the band recognized how much people enjoyed coming to see it perform and delayed the album, Ricci said. After a trip to Europe in 2003, Ricci, frustrated with not being able to hand people an album to showcase the band's talent, said he decided it was time to create the album. "Baby" is the result of nine months of composing, recording and producing, Ricci said.
"It's been a full-time job for me since August," Ricci said. "You know, cause we're musicians, it doesn't look like we're working, but we struggle with a lot of stuff (offstage)."
Sitting in the basement of the Wild Buffalo on an old yellowing couch, Ricci discussed contract details with the owner of the bar, made a set list for the show and looked at song details with several band members. He said that despite the amount of effort it took to write, direct, record and produce the album, it was something he felt compelled to do.
"Over the course of my time in Bellingham, I've come into contact with a lot of musicians, and I feel like it's my job to help enrich their lives," Ricci said. "(Bellingham musicians) are like nothing I've ever heard."
Bob Reese, a percussion player in La Push, as well as Bee-craft and Flowmotion, two other local funk bands, explained what it was like to work with Ricci in a studio.
"It's hard to get a good sound in a dry environment," Reese said. "But Joel was in there dancing around, and it really helped to get the energy up. He's really good to work with."
The band played nonstop Friday night from 11 p.m. to just after 1 a.m., and the crowd still cheered for more.
After closing with the slow and soulful "Tiny Versions," the band headed backstage and the lights dimmed. The crowd immediately began clapping in sync and chanting "encore, encore." Within minutes, the band, led by Ricci, climbed back onstage stomping with the beat, bringing the noise to a wall-thumping crescendo. The lights came on, and the horns exploded, catapulting the crowd back into motion. Hips shook and hands flailed as the roof on the crammed house seemed close to bursting off.
The lively jam session, which included all nine band members, continued for almost 10 minutes, while the crowd danced frantically. When the song finally ended, the crowd stood around the bar looking through the red glow as if waking from a dream. Sweaty and out of breath, with tired legs but big smiles, the audience members filtered out. The band members stepped out the back door and felt the cool air. Standing in the brick-lined alley under a streetlight, they passed around a couple cigarettes and a beer and talked about how good the crowd was and how hot a few girls in the front row were.
At the other end of the building, the weary but upbeat crowd stood on the sidewalk by Holly Street, talking about how good the show was.
"No one puts it on like La Push puts it on," Western senior Cassidy Grattan said. "Ev - The Western Front

"Seriously excited; La PUSH shares its enthusiasm for funk"

December 5, 2002

Author: Tony Stasiek; Staff
Section: Take Five
Page: 11S
Estimated printed pages: 3
Article Text:
By Tony Stasiek
This Joel Ricci greets his mocha with a "Thank you - SEARRRiously" and subconsciously slides off his chair as he speaks. And this isn't the excited Joel Ricci.
That guy comes around when you talk about the funk, especially his new band, La PUSH. All kindsa syllables get the italics. Like the band's first unofficial show playing Prince covers in Spokane this past Halloween - oh man.
"We just ripped it UP," Ricci says. "I mean, the whole place went CRAY-zy. Spokane has not partied that hard for a long time."
Ebullience, baby. It's, well, yeah, it can be annoying. Even Ricci admits that it led partially to the demise of the Bellingham singer/trumpeter's previous bands, Saucy Jack and the Lucky Seven.
But it's also what brought together Ricci and members of Seattle's BeeCraft, Flowmotion and the Alpha Roots Transmitters to form the La PUSH funk-soul revue, which debuts in whole tonight at Boundary Bay Brewery.
"You've gotta have a big party going on," says Ricci, 26. "Horns and saxophones and lots of people dancing and singing and jumping up and down, shaking their things, just freakin' out."
It's not the newest concept in the world. But it has been reshapen in recent years with the "rare-groove" movement, less a funk-soul revival than a redirection of its booty-waggin'. Mixing the authenticity standard of garage rock and the record-collecting jones of the DJ world, groups of the ilk record primarily on 45-rpm vinyl in hopes of tapping the earthy, nervous essence of James Brown or The Meters.
At its root: the Poets of Rhythm, an German octet that toiled in obscurity until catching the ear of lauded indie hip-hop label Quannum Projects, which released the group's first stateside CD last year.
Ricci caught wind of the band in 1998, when his sister passed along a copy of the Poets' rare "Original Raw Soul Vol. I" CD she found in a used bin. It made new noises inside his head. He liked them.
Thus followed a Goldilocks-esque quest to re-expunge them.
First up Saucy Jack, which paired Eastern Washington University music-composition graduate Ricci with guys set on jammy jazz-funk.
"Then I started to bring my own music to the band, talking on the microphone more, and that was what caused the friction," Ricci says. "I was being more aggressive, you know. They didn't want that."
He and saxophonist Jun Nakamuro then helped form the Lucky Seven, which fused local blues, bluegrass and rock musicians to produce chilled-out soul. But after a year of bandhood and the defections of two bandmates, the group split, splintering into the Badass Sextet and Mama Sutra.
"Idiomatically, a lot of members of the band weren't there," Ricci says. "Lucky Seven wasn't getting ready to record or tour - nothing new in its future. And I wanted to record an album - an album album."
After a six-month jaunt picking grapes in France and studying the musical trade from European jam circles, Ricci returned to Bellingham. A sign he made the right decision: A girl sitting beside him on the bus blasted The Meters on her headphones.
He also reconnected with his former EWU classmates in Seattle prog-jam band BeeCraft earlier this year. Turns out they were happy to oblige Ricci's desire to record a rare-groove-funk album. And they also knew what the hell he was talking about.
"This stuff, it's a lot more repetitive than soul - it's (instrument) parts that are meaningless on their own but when put together are part of a larger-sounding thing," Ricci says. "These musicians think of songs in terms of interlocking rhythms instead of chords."
Enthusiasm's big, too. It's a prerequisite to rehearse in Seattle with La PUSH's lineup of two guitars, two saxes, drums, bass, keyboards, extra percussion, vocals and a trumpet. Ricci takes the bus down or hitches for lack of a driver's license. Wait. Driver's license.
"All I'm trying to do is be true to the sounds running in my head," he says. "And the sounds running in my head are so strong that I'm going to go crazy until I push them out into the world."
Members of the Seattle-area band BeeCraft form the rhythm section of La PUSH, which plays tonight at Boundary Bay Brewery.
Copyright (c) The Bellingham Herald. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: blg2002120615340058
- Bellingham Herald, The

"Sweat to the funk with La PUSH"

by Bryan Sharick
April 25, 2003

Bar-goers at The Fairhaven Pub and Martini Bar got pushed onto the dance floor because of the music last Thursday night when 10-piece afro-funk orchestra and Bellingham band La PUSH played.
"One word to describe La PUSH would be 'sweat,'" said Joel Ricci, trumpet player, lead singer and creator of La PUSH. "We sweat."
Ricci writes the rhythms, beats, and even arranges the sheet music.
"I come in with the raw material and the general idea for the form," Ricci said.
La PUSH consists of Ricci on trumpet and vocals, Western junior Issac Weiser on baritone saxophone, Spokane resident Karen Barnard on tenor saxophone and Jason Cressie on trombone. Beecraft is the regular backup band for La PUSH.
"Beecraft are good enough musicians that they can learn La PUSH's songs quickly and still do their material," Ricci said.
Weiser joined the band after Ricci told him that he was a great saxophone player and he listens really well, Weiser said.
"Playing in La PUSH is like taking me back to the retro '70s thing that I missed," Weiser said. "The people are so much part of the show that it's not funk if they're not dancing."
Barnard said she heard about Ricci's idea for the band when she was in Bellingham with her cousin who was visiting Western.
"Joel is so creative and spontaneous. It's hard not to be inspired, on stage is where the music comes together," Barnard said.
Ricci said that he usually likes to call out what to play at the concerts because he loves the spontaneity.
"We have to take Joel's direction on stage," Barnard said. "We can't all be honkin' our horns at once or it'll be a mess. You really have to listen to what's going on and fit in."
Ricci is the brainchild of the band and it is not Ricci's first project that he's had in Bellingham.
When his previous bands disbanded Ricci took a six-month hiatus to Europe to learn about the music he loved: funk.
Ricci's six-month jaunt ended because he eventually ran out of money, he said.
"On the way back, I e-mailed Beecraft to see if they would record with me," Ricci said.
Ricci said he has always admired Beecraft because they have worked for a long time on their art.
The members of Beecraft are from the Seattle area and Ricci attended Eastern Washington University with three of the members.
Barnard also went to EWU with Ricci.
"It's sort of like I get paid to do my hobby," Barnard said. "La PUSH is an opportunity to play in a kick-ass funk band and that hasn't been there since I graduated."
The band is named after the 800-year-old fishing village of La Push, Wash. on the Quileute Indian Reservation when Ricci took a trip to the ocean with some friends.
"The name had to be able to express something about the music and musicians," Ricci said. "One of the things I wanted to express is the local-ness. It also had to be something that I could use to make double-entendres and jokes, but still be able to tell my mom it's the name of my band."
Ricci described La Push, Wash. as a magical place where he went surfing for the first time.
"I dream of the band being something that'll push you out to the dance floor," Ricci said. "When people hear La PUSH, they're gonna associate it with really good parties, dancing and beautiful girls."
La PUSH will be playing another show on May 2 at the Wild Buffalo with the set beginning around 9 p.m.
"It's a groovin', booty shakin' party with a bunch of people having a good time," Weiser said.

- The Western Front


In the summer of 2004, a record label based in Joel Ricci's kitchen: Westsound Record Co. released LaPUSH’s first record, Baby, to stellar local reviews. Baby came out celebrated as "a CD that grabs and holds the listener with a blast of all original high-energy funk and Motown scorchers with a sound that is both retro and fresh,” and as”…a CD that makes you want to get up and dance!.” The backyard barbeque party record of 2004, Baby was in the local top 10 at record stores, in the press, and on college radio play lists.


Feeling a bit camera shy


LaPUSH was introduced to the Pacific Northwest in the winter of 2002 as a manifestation of the personal creative, spiritual, and social goals of Puget Sound native, Joel Ricci. Ricci is a graduate of Eastern Washington University with a degree in music composition. Currently, LaPUSH is encouraging community support for The Funk Revolution by focusing its efforts on benefit shows, all-ages venues, and outdoor festivals. During this phase, LaPUSH has expanded its influence from Bellingham to Seattle to Olympia and out to the Olympic Peninsula. LaPUSH regularly attracts more than 400 people to any given show, and has helped raise thousands of dollars for Northwest charities. The LaPUSH name is in high demand as it is synonymous with sold out crowds, dancing, healing, and joy. Very soon, LaPUSH will be poised to deliver The Funk Message across the globe.