In the late 1990′s, guitarist and producer Eddie Roberts was running a club night in Leeds called “The Cooker.” When The Cooker moved into a new venue with a second floor in 1999, there was space and the opportunity to put a live band together to complement the DJ sets. Simon Allen and Eddie had played together in 1997 as The Mastersounds, though with a different bassist and no organ. Through friends and the intimate nature of the Leeds music scene, Pete Shand and Bob Birch were added on bass and Hammond respectively, and The New Mastersounds were born. Though it was raw, and more of a boogaloo sound at first, it was powerful from the start. Their first rehearsal was hot enough for Blow it Hard Records to release on two limited-edition 7″ singles in 2000.
As a band, and as individuals, they have since collaborated or jammed with an impressive array of musicians DJs and producers, including: Lou Donaldson (Blue Note), Corinne Bailey Rae (EMI), Quantic (Tru Thoughts), Carleen Anderson (Young Disciples / Brand New Heavies), Keb Darge & Kenny Dope (Kay Dee Records), John Arnold (Ubiquity), Mr Scruff (Ninja Tune), Snowboy (Ubiquity), Fred Everything (2020vision), Andy Smith (Portishead), James Taylor (JTQ), LSK (Faithless), Lack of Afro (Freestyle), Page McConnell (Phish), Karl Denson (Lenny Kravitz / Greyboy AllStars), Melvin Sparks (Blue Note Records), George Porter Jr (The Meters), Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker (JB’s), and Art Neville (Neville Brothers, The Meters)
In 2006, as well as playing club gigs in France, Spain, Belgium and Italy, the band toured the USA & Japan. In August they finished recording their fifth album, 102% (released on One Note Records in 2007). The album features collaborations with sax and flute player Rob Lavers who performed as a guest with the band on several subsequent live tours. In the same year producer/guitarist Eddie Roberts had already released a live album in Japan (Roughneck – Live in Paris), and produced a studio album of his own arrangements of traditional Italian songs called Trenta.
2007 started auspiciously – on their very first Jamcruise (an American funk festival on the high seas) the NMS were playing Meters tunes with George Porter Jr sitting in – just one of the highlights of a legendary 3-hour set. On their return to the UK the band were greeted by a capacity crowd at London’s prestigious Jazz Cafe venue, for the album launch of 102%. They also performed tunes from the new album for Mark Lamarr on BBC Radio Two. At the end of January, organist Bob Birch reluctantly retired from the band due to commitments at home. In February Eddie, Simon and Pete ushered in another Leeds keyboard player, Joe Tatton, who had depped for Bob in the past, as well as working with UK soul star Corinne Bailey Rae and funk renegades The Haggis Horns. Joe’s real initiation took place in April with the band’s first trip to New Orleans during which they played late night at the House of Blues and the Blue Nile and where Eddie stuck around for the following week to sit in with the likes of Idris Muhammed, Lonnie Smith, Galactic, Papa Mali and The Greyboy Allstars. Having thrilled audiences at Wakarusa, Harmony, Gratefulfest and High Sierra music festivals, the NMS returned to the US at the end of July – to Chicago, to play Wicker Park and to open for The Headhunters.
After a well-earned break, the NMS regrouped in October for a 2 week tour of France during which they rediscovered the joy of the original 4-piece NMS sound: bass, drums, guitar and Hammond.
On the record front, German label Legere Recordings released their compilation An Introduction to The New Mastersounds on CD and LP back in May, while Milan-based label Record Kicks was putting together an album of NMS tunes remixed by a host of talented underground funk and beats producers. “The New Mastersounds – Re::Mixed” was released on CD, LP and itunes on October 15th.
As an example of the respect this band commands, Peter Wermelinger – DJ, collector, and author of the crate-diggers’ bible The Funky & Groovy Music Lexicon – places the 2001 NMS track ‘Turn This Thing Around’ in his all-time top-ten tunes, along with the likes of Eddie Harris, Funkadelic, and Herbie Hancock. The New Mastersounds are at the very top of an elite selection of acts that bring the true soul out of funk.