Here’s The Deal (Shanachie Records)

Liquid Soul

Released March 14, 2000

Grammy Nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album 2001




Funk is a dish best served live, and although Liquid Soul’s third album HERE’S THE DEAL is a mix of concert performances and studio cuts, the irresistible grooves conjured up by this Chicago collective remain a constant throughout. Led by saxophonist Mars Williams, Liquid Soul work from a funk base augmented by plenty of jazz, hip-hop, and rock. Rapper MCB rides a rambunctious rhythm throughout “Sure Fire One,” while Nina Simone’s daughter Simone adds sultry vocals to the erotic slow jam “Dysfunction,” and the brassy, scratch-laden “Stop By Monie’s.” Other studio cuts worth mentioning are the blaxploitation-flavored “Sex Tablet,” and the quirky swing of “Rocket Scientist,” guided by Tony Sanchez’s fluid rhythm guitar playing. The live cuts find Liquid Soul raising the bar considerably, as they unleash a furious Caribbean-infused rhythmic attack on the Dizzy Gillespie tribute “The Diz” and give Miles Davis’ “All Blues” a booty-shaking makeover. Elsewhere, atonal chords spice up the dark grooves of “Donkey Punch,” while the chicken-scratch guitar and locomotive bass lines of “Spam Sucker” turn it into a theme for an imaginary ’70s cop show.

Track Listing:

1. Sure Fire One (Mars Williams) 4:27

2. The Diz (Mars Williams) 3:17

3. Stop by Monie’s (Mars Williams) 3:54

4. Everbody’s Got One 3:55

5. Show Me (Mars Williams) 2:53

6. Sex Tablet (Mars Williams) 3:22

7. All Blues (Miles Davis) 6:13

8. Sweet Pea (Mars Williams) 3:44

9. Donkey Punch (Mars Williams) 3:41

10. Dysfunction (Nick D’Virgilio / Mars Williams) 4:46

11. Rocket Scientist (Mars Williams) 2:07

12. Spam Sucker (Tommy Klein / Mars Williams) 3:22


Mars Williams: alto, tenor, wooden flute, sopranino saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone

Tommy Sanchez: guitar

Ron Haynes: trumpet, flugelhorn

Johnny “Showtime” Janowiak: trombone

Chris “Hambone” Cameron: keyboards

Dan Leali: drums

Ajax: turntables 

Recorded at Rax Trax Recording, Chicago (tracks 5, 6, 8, 11); Studiochicago (3, 10); live at Double Door, Chicago (1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 12)

Recorded by Rick Barnes and Tomothy Powell

Mixed by: Rick Barnes

Mastered by Jeff Hillman

Design: David Yow


A few years ago, Liquid Soul’s main claim to fame was gigging at President Clinton’s second inaugural parade and a birthday bash for Dennis Rodman. The band has grown from Chicago cult favorite to mainstay at jazz festivals nationwide. Liquid Soul’s hyperkinetic blend of jazz and funk is captured to good effect on Here’s the Deal, the group’s best album yet. Included are six cuts recorded live at Chicago’s Double Door, plus six done up in the studio.
With its spiraling horn lines, subtle hip-hop touches and relentless grooves, Liquid Soul is a potent party band. I’m not one to routinely plug an album that features two rappers and a DJ on turntables, but this album is hard to dislike. The CD only contains two rap cuts, and each has enough instrumental flair to please most jazz critics. I also dislike most hip-hop, but I find Liquid Soul’s hip-hop touches more fun than annoying. One big difference between this band and other such outfits: the Soulster’s grooves are motored by a fine human drummer in Dan Leali. Second big difference: everybody in this band is a terrific musician.

The instrumentals on Deal are worth the price of the CD. Particularly good is the funked-up version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” I also dig the groove-heavy dance cuts “Donkey Punch” and “Sweet Pea.”
As always, leader Mars Williams (great jazz name) struts his considerable stuff on reeds. Williams blows four different saxophones here, plus wood flute. With Ron Haynes (trumpet, flugelhorn) and John Janowicz (trombone) flanking Williams in the horn section, you’d swear you’re hearing the Brecker Brothers plus one. The remaining five musicians round out a muscular ensemble that’s part Breckers, part Tower of Power, part millennium groove machine. Nina Simone’s daughter lends soulful vocals to two songs.
At times Liquid Soul seems a bit too hipper than thou, but I defy anyone to resist those fluid horns and pulsing beats. If you like jazzed-up party music, Here’s the Deal is indeed a deal.

Ed Kopp (All About Jazz)