Hip-hop soul group returns to Ghost Ranch Saloon on Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Hip-hop soul group returns to Ghost Ranch Saloon on Saturday

— It was about a year ago that lyricist Azma Holiday and drummer Chris Murphy were putting together their new band, dubbed Rebel Tongue.

They were looking for prolific players with style steeped in funk and soul. But more importantly, they were looking for musicians with good hearts and understanding souls.

"When you're on stage, you're brothers," Holiday said Thursday. "It's cool to be up there with people who are going to be behind you, and you're not out there naked, by yourself."

Charging into the Denver music scene with new hip-hop and funk material, Murphy and Holiday — along with Justin Francouer on bass, Scott Rolfs on guitar, Mike Chiesa on saxophone and Jim Chiesa on trumpet — think they now have the configuration of musical brothers to send their messages into the music community.

"We were looking for cats who would want to get together and actually rehearse and run ideas that were original ideas, instead of trying to live in other people's shadows," Holiday said.

They take after their influences in that way, as Holiday likened his approach to lessons he's learned from idol Curtis Mayfield.

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"They weren't trying to be anything except what they were," he said. "There was no front. They delivered it from a place that was real and raw."

And with Rebel Tongue, that means staying true to the kind of band they are: a melting pot of funk, jazz, blues and hip-hop.

"We do: 'Here's what we've got, here's the players we got, and this is what it is,'" Holiday said. "If you've got horns, you definitely have to really put those horns in, they're not just for show."

The band returns to Ghost Ranch Saloon for a free show Saturday. They've spent the summer working on an album and collaborating with members of Parliament Funkadelic, which also exemplifies that familial vibe that Rebel Tongue aims for.

And they hope that vibe carries over into the crowd at their live shows.

"We hope they leave and their feet are sore and their faces smiling," Murphy said.

Part of what propels the positivity is Azma's lyrics, which ride atop the retro soul beats on the rapper's smooth inflection and thoughtful subject matter.

Their song "Lose Hope" is actually a dare to keep hope alive when everything seems to be falling down around you.

The pair said their aim is to be as inclusive as possible, especially with those who may not like hip-hop.

Murphy fondly recalled a recent Ghost Ranch show where there were a group of cowboys in boots and hats who were dancing by the end of the night.

"It's just flying everywhere, and you can grab it out of the air," Murphy said about the energy.

As for the future, the band hopes to release its debut album in fall. It's the right lineup and the right time, Murphy and Holiday agreed.

"If I could do this every day, I would," Holiday said about performing. "I love to learn more. You might think you have something figured out, but then you get on stage, and you learn something completely different."

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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