Alphabet Soup is a Hip-hop/jazz band that was formed in the early 90's in Oakland by some of my close friends in the Bay Area. The first Soup gigs were in a basement speakeasy called something like Captain's Corner. This place served only beer and Jagermeister and was in an awful part of town, so bad in fact that when bands played we had to hire security to escort patrons to and from their cars. There were always voluminous clouds of weed smoke hanging in the air of this nautical themed converted basement. Several other popular 'Nu-Jazz' (I hate that term) and Funk got their start at this illegal club. I played there regularly, with the quintet that I co-led with tenor saxophonist Kenny Brooks for years, until one of the patrons got shot outside the club. At that point we started looking for safer venues. It was sure fun while it lasted though.
Alphabet Soup became a major force in the Groove Jazz scene that was exploding in San Francisco in the 90's. People were calling this music Hip-Bop (Hip-Hop/Be-Bop), which eventually became Nu-Jazz (STUPID!). There were usually rappers and/or turntable-ists, funky drums grooves and modern sounding Jazz melodies and blowing. Charlie Hunter's trio was starting to become wildly popular around then. Kenny Brooks and I played in Hunter's Quintet D'Gengis, which was just four horns and Charlie. Pianist Dred Scott (who also plays drums), Charlie, Kenny Brooks and I would go out on Telegraph ave near UC Berkeley and busk on the street. We were always playing great sessions at Dred's Oakland loft with players like Joshua Redman, Eric Crystal, Click Dark, Wilber Krebs, Scott Amandola, Liberty Ellman, Dave McNabb. It was kind of a thriving little East Bay loft scene.
It was an exiting time because all of a sudden Jazz musicians discovered that if they just added some Hip-Hop grooves to their music they could actually play in popular clubs for lots of young people, what a shocker that was. Of course Miles discovered this back in the 60's, but it was a pretty big shift in the San Francisco club scene at the time. Young people are fickle about their musical tastes and soon enough the Swing dancing fad overtook many clubs. Alphabet Soup stayed together through the years, going through several different MCs, drummers and bassists. Kenny Brooks and Dred Scott kept the band working regularly through everything. When Charlie Hunter became a national act he took Kenny out on the road with him and I subbed for him for a while. Dred eventually moved to NYC and Jeff Chimenti (now with Rat Dog) took his chair while Dred was back east, though Dred would often make it back to SF for gigs.
Recently Kenny moved to NYC (he actually has cribs on both coasts) and it was only a matter of time before the Soup had their first NYC gig. Rapper CB made the trip out for the show and former West Coasters Jesse Murphy and Diego Voglino joined the band on bass and drums. Murph (who I grew up in Santa Cruz with) is one of my all-time favorite bass players. Last time I saw him play he was on Letterman playing with the Brazilian Girls. He came out wearing nothing but tight swim trunks, a bowler hat and electrical tape on his nipples!
In all the years that Soup has been together I'm sure that they have only rehearsed a handful of times, IF THAT! I wonder if they even rehearsed for this recent gig? After all, the loose weed-fueled vibe of the Soup is what made the band so special. This gig sounds great and Kenny B is absolutely KILLING it.
First set of Alphabet Soup East
Alphabet Soup's MySpace page
Kenny Brooks' home page
Dred Scott's home Page