Funky Nation's sound keeps evolving

Big Sam Williams, the founder and trombonist in the New Orleans combo Big Sam's Funky Nation, considers his group a work in perpetual progress.


The band began as a traditional horn-driven funk ensemble. Mr. Williams said it wasn't long before, in true New Orleans fashion, the songs began to take on other styles and sounds.

The current version of the Funky Nation sound, by Mr. Williams' count, incorporates elements of funk, jazz, punk, rock and hip-hop. He said the ongoing experiment is based on what the members hear.

"People always want to experiment with the sounds they hear in their head," he said during a recent telephone interview. "When I started, it was just New Orleans brass and funk in my head. But after that, I started playing with rock, then hip-hop. It has just kept evolving."

The group's quest for new sounds has led to some unusual ideas. For instance, the band will often run horns through guitar pedals, altering the sound as it plays. Mr. Williams said the common denominator is producing energy in front of an audience.

"That's what it is all about for me," he said. "I could care less about being in a recording studio. I want to be on that stage. I want to be in front of people. I want to be in that moment."

He said part of his disdain for the studio is the inability to harness that live energy while recording.

"You just can't capture it," he said. I've tried. You might come close, but it is never the same."

The Funky Nation quest for that live vibe means a demanding performance schedule, both on the road and at home in New Orleans. As fond as he is of the Crescent City, it doesn't take long for him to get itchy feet.

"Sure, being on the road is difficult, but I just can't sit at home for too long," he said. "I mean, New Orleans is a beautiful place, but once you've been sitting around for a while, you need that music therapy. It's just time to get out of town."

Besides, he said, the road is where he hears new music, finds new ideas and continues to shape the Funky Nation sound.

"Because you have to keep evolving," he said. "That's what every musician should want to do."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or


WHAT: Big Sam's Funky Nation with Bayou Bleu

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Sky City, 1157 Broad St.

COST: $5. Go to