Naughty Professor is an iconoclastic New Orleans-based jazz-funk sextet whose recordings and high-energy live performances have earned them an enthusiastic fan base, critical acclaim, and widespread attention from their musical peers. Weaving together complex, inventive compositions and loose, organic improvisation, the band pays tribute to their hometown’s jazz, R&B and brass-band traditions, while looking to the future.
Naughty Professor raises the stakes based on its origins for its latest album Identity (2017). Whereas their prior four releases showcased the group’s knack for self-contained instrumental experimentation, Identity finds the band teaming with a stellar assortment of more than a dozen cutting-edge collaborators, whose vocal, instrumental and compositional contributions expand the music into new musical territory.
Identity’s prestigious list of guests includes Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, who’s featured on a pair of tracks, ‘Darker Daze’ & ‘Sugar Coat’, which also features contributions from New Orleans legend Ivan Neville. David Shaw of the Revivalists lends his vocals on ‘Stray’ and singer/guitarist Dexter Gilmore contributes on ‘I Can’t Sleep At Night’. Additional special collaborators include trumpet player Eric “Benny” Bloom of Lettuce, percussionist Mike Dillion, acclaimed jazz vocalist Sasha Masakowski and members of the renowned New Orleans group Soul Rebels, who are outstanding on the last track, ‘Funk 4 Lunch’.
“They’re not just guests,” explains Naughty Professor drummer Sam Shahin. “The collaborators on this album were chosen because we respected what they do and felt that they could be a complement to our ensemble.”
“When these kids first started coming up on the scene, I could tell right away that there was something very special about their energy and music,” David Shaw comments on his excitement to collaborate “I believe that the sky has no limit for these boys.”
“My first impression of Naughty Professor was one of amazement,” Chali 2na notes. “New Orleans is full of musicians that are masters of their craft, and Naughty P is no exception. They are also perfectionists and this is immediately apparent once you hear them play. “I am loving the resurgence of jazz combined with this youthful mindstate that musicians have today,” Chali continues.
The band recorded each track on Identity live in the studio, heightening the immediacy of the performances and solidifying the band’s connection with the guest collaborators. The sessions were also documented on video, with an eye towards releasing a video version of the album. A wide range of musical impulses has driven Naughty Professor ever since the band members first convened in 2010, having met while students at Loyola University’s jazz programme. The musicians’ potent collective chemistry quickly won attention on the New Orleans music scene. After graduating, they began touring, expanding their audience nationwide.
Naughty Professor’s first three albums further raised the band’s national profile. Lauded by the critics for having a “musical depth and vision far beyond their young years”, Naughty Professor’s name appears regularly alongside New Orlean’s veteran luminaries. The city’s vital spirit is present throughout Identity, which combines artfully-crafted studio creations with material developed through live performances. “We like being adventurous and cerebral, but fun is also important,” Shahin concludes. “We operate with a jazz mentality, but we like verse/chorus structures. We definitely embrace the idea that we’re bridging the gap between the more thought-provoking side of jazz and popular mainstream music, and making the whole thing fun and accessible for everyone.”
Bill Daniel: Guitar
Noah Young: Bass
Sam Shahin: Drums
Nick Ellman: Alto & Baritone Saxes
Ian Bowman: Tenor Sax
John Culbreth: Trumpet