"Funky Suits and Jazz Unicorns."
La Lucha says fans can expect those when the St. Petersburg jazz trio releases its new album, Pa'Lante, at the Palladium Theater. The unicorns are a nod to Jazz Unicorn Lair, the studio where La Lucha recorded the funky, nine-track album. The band said it wanted to take a production-oriented approach, as opposed to the traditional live-in-the-studio jazz recording.
"'Pa’Lante' is a slang term in spanish that means 'moving forward,'" the band told CL in an interview. "It is usually used in the context of getting ahead in life through hard work. We think it is a good analogy to describe our approach to this new album."
"We still have the jazz approach in that these were all live performances, but we wanted to take our time and explore sounds and textures. We wanted the album to stand on its own as a unique product and a springboard for our live performances of the material," La Lucha added.
"The Jazz Unicorn Lair is a magical place that you can only access through learning to play a legendary musical lick. The Jazz Unicorn has asked us not to talk about it or else..."
The album was engineered mastered by St. Petersburg's own Melissa Harris and Dave Greenberg and is driven by the sounds of a newly acquired Moog Sub Phatty synth, which leaves the effort sounding like a departure from anything La Lucha has done in the past. At times, songs on Pa'Lante sound like lost jams by Pasadena funktronica god Dâm-Funk; it's easy to imagine the cuts accompanied by the sounds of an emcee on the mic (something the band said it would not be afraid to get into).
In sharing music with each other, the band members noticed a resurgence of synthesizers in everything they heard. Ears perked up, and La Lucha's mind followed. Keyboard player John O'Leary bought the Sub Phatty, and then bassist Alejandro Arenas brought in a Novation Bass Station III, which resulted in inspiring "synthsploration" sessions where the band explored sounds and textures while improvising parts on the spot. It opened new doors for the group. For example, John plays some bass lines behind Alejandro’s bass solos on "Treaty," and the record finds members trading roles at times.
The connection between the band's members — O'Leary, Arenas and percussionist Mark Feinman — still sits at the heart of the record. La Lucha's creative process usually finds one of the guys (all best friends) bringing an idea — be it a full fledged composition or just a couple of melodies — in before the trio lets it musical instincts take over.
"The composer is still the person who provided the bulk of the material, but the other two guys are essential not only as performers, but as arrangers," the band explained.
And that squirrel on Pa'lante''s album art?
"[It] represents the risk of improvisation. Sometimes improvising feels like a squirrel crossing the street," the band wrote. "Will it make it on time before it gets run over by the car?"
Decide for yourself by looking below and hearing Pa'lante a week before its release. Call your local record store to see if it'll stock the album.
Summer of Soul: La Lucha Album Release. Fri. Sept. 14, 8 p.m. $36. Side Door Cabaret at the Palladium Theatre. 253 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg. mypalladium.org.