As is the case for everybody, 2020 was a rough one for funky jazz troupe Leisure Chief (despite being crowned “Best Jazz Act” in Orlando Weekly). Its live shows have been borderline non-existent, other than a few pre-corona get-togethers at venues like Winter Park eatery The New Standard.
On the other hand, the band finally released Cosmic Comics on Jan. 29, following a few months of teasing the album.
Its lead single, “Saturday,” hit streaming services on Jan. 15 and veers away from Leisure Chief’s jazz sound heard in previous recordings and concerts. Instead, the track dives into a more disco-oriented groove. Not to say that the funk wasn’t there before, though—fans were given a preview of that sound back in 2019 on double-single, Deux, which has “7D2,” a composition with shades of the Commodores behind it.
Needless to say, vocalist and key songwriter Derek Engstrom and friends are over the moon to finally share their second full album, but due to the obvious state of the world right now, the band is full of skepticism regarding future live shows.
“We will be back gigging as soon as the group agrees it to be appropriate—maybe early 2021,” bassist Chris McMullen told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
For the time being—while we wait for COVID-19 to be deemed something of an afterthought once everyone, their mom and dog gets the vaccine (just kidding about Fido)—we at least have Leisure Chief’s new sound to keep us company. It’s an odd phase for the band, but perhaps this change of style will drive in some new fans, some of which may still live in the disco era. That said, if Motown Records still existed the way it did 45 years ago, Leisure Chief would easily find itself among the label’s top names.
See a list of Tampa Bay’s “Safe & Sound” live music venues here.
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