The next-gen iteration of Earth, Wind and Fire funkadelia has arrived with the uplifting energy of NYC-based 3D Rhythm of Life. The band honors the classic EWF songs – most notably, the blockbuster “Fantasy” – adding fresh changes in instrumentation and smooth, watertight vocal harmonies. The result is blazing colors in multiple dimensions. Latin-inspired, the group has the incredible, sweat-drenched endurance and a mobius loop of stamina to keep the songs coming with strong, full vocals, and percussion that just doesn’t quit.
Drummer and bandleader Michael Tate is effusive with praise for his band members. When he plays, there’s no wiping the smile from his face; it spreads throughout his band and to anyone in earshot.
What’s your first memory of being interested in percussion?
Fell in love with drums at seven years old, and started playing around 10 years old. Still love them today. It’s the best instrument ever.
Were you educated on Latin jazz or did you arrive at it later?
I have studied drumming as a complete discipline, enjoying many styles from jazz, gospel, Latin, soca, reggae, R&B and more. I have studied with some great folks: Yogi Horton, Frankie Malabe and Jim Chapin. Other masters as well. It is all rhythm.
What are some of the more unusual items and instruments in your drum kit?
Tambourine and three cowbells. For me pretty normal at this point, they go wherever I go.
When you solo, what are some of your favorite riffs? How do you remain inventive?
I solo in 3D RHYTHM OF LIFE when I feel it is time for me to get a piece of the pie. I solo over the melody or a motif related to the song. I really am a drummer that plays and supports the song, I get what I need J
What made you decide to devote your band to tribute music in these genres?
3D Rhythm of Life is a Latin-tropical-soul band with many influences; we call it a tropical sancocho (stew). It’s all in there!
What does “3D” refer to you in your name?
DYNAMIC, DIVERSE, DANCEABLE.
How did you meet the musicians in your band and what do they do best?
Chris Amelar (on guitar) and I put this group together 18 years ago. We have quite a history together: Lenny Underwood on keyboards and key bass has been with us for about 15 years. We are the heart and soul of the group. They are well-studied and enjoy many styles.
What are your top favorites from Earth, Wind and Fire that you perform?
Everything! EWF is a group that was created by the master Maurice White. Exceptional on every level. We only perform “FANTASY” in the group with our original arrangement.
AFTER THE LOVE HAS GONE
THAT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD
What type of permission do you need to perform EWF’s music?
To record “Fantasy,” we obtained the proper license and permission. I actually spoke to one of the writers, Mr. Eddie Del Barrio, by pure luck.
Have any of the original members of EWF guest-performed with you?
Not yet, that would be a dream. They have heard our interpretation and approved!
What rhythms and melodic devices do you use to evoke an Afro-Caribbean sound?
As a drummer and composer, rhythm and melody are always of paramount importance. I like to work with the similarities in the genres and present the music from that point of view.
Talk about the release of the new song “Quiero Saber” (“I Wonder Why”)?
This song appears on the new record in Spanish [RELEASE DATE JAN. 23, 2018], English and instrumentally. It is the next single and will be presented with a lyric-theme video as well. I wrote this song to give some insight into the way a man processes the end of a relationship. Ladies, this one is for you, hope it helps!
What was it like to make this video?
The Fantasy video was our first narrative piece. It was a very intense and rewarding experience. So many details and production decisions. I worked with a very talented director Tane Martinez. Everyone did a great job and helped bring the story to the screen.
Is it part of a new CD?
Yes, “Fantasy” is the video, single and title of the new release. We have the next single in Spanish (“Quiero Saber”) followed by the rest of the album. The three sides to the group include Spanish, English and instrumental music.
What were some of the production and recording highlights of your new album?
LATIN-TROPICAL-SOUL music is what you will find on the new FANTASY CD, with Chris Amelar, Lenny Underwood, Herman Olivera, George Mena, Jake Tanner, Ricky Gonzales, Ozzie Melendez, Mario Sebastian and Chris Alfinez (all Marc Anthony folks). Working with many talented people helped make this album come to life. It was a pleasure.
How has the industry changed since you started performing?
People do not seem to buy music. That clearly is a change all musicians are dealing with. The elements of the music are always there, it is how you mix and make your personal sauce.
How do audiences react to 3D Rhythm of Life?
Give us the stage and we will take care of the rest. Audiences like what they hear. “No hay tipico.” We come to perform 1000%. Always a surprise, it is alive!
What do people ask you about the most?
They ask about the name of the band and what is my favorite style.
What are the challenges to rehearsing and recording with an 8-person ensemble?
We gig a lot, so things are shaped and tested, just like the old formula the jazz guys used.
Play it for a while and go record it. I very rarely need to have an 8-piece rehearsal; in fact, never have. I break it up and I get more done. Honored to work with outstanding people.
What is your biggest challenge in the industry today?
How has your marketing strategy changed since you began?
Today you have to do everything yourself. Record companies served many purposes that independent artists are now finding out. You need relationships and $$$. We cannot do it alone.
Your favorite venues?
Any that support LIVE music. We perform at all types of venues, big and small.
Place you would most like to perform?
Carnegie Hall with the band! I have done it as a sideman.
Favorite festival and why?
I enjoyed our first appearance at the JVC Jazz Festival. Thank you Rick White. But I like them all.
Plans to grow your presence this year?
The continued promotion of FANTASY and the singles and next video.
QUIERO SABER. More TV appearances and concerts, and a manager would be great.
Little-known fact about your band?
We are not famous yet LOL. It is all out there in the digital world.
Maybe that we can play gospel music as well.
Do you all write?
Yes, the group has six full CDs recorded along with singles and dance mixes, even a Latin version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and a video we made for kids.
Thank you for your time and letting me share a little about 3D RHYTHM OF LIFE with you and your audience, I enjoyed our time together.
The Greats Create! Support new music, we need all of you.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Michael Tate.
© Debbie Burke 2018