Hip hopping through a jazzy swamp with Bullfrog 

WHO: Bullfrog

WHERE: Garfinkel’s

WHEN: Wednesday, March 21

There’s a movement afoot on the live music scene, and while it’s not new, it’s finally coming into the spotlight: live bands featuring a DJ, or is it vice versa?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conceive the idea of pairing of these musical elements, but it only seems now that mainstream Canadian venues are recognizing the potential of this fusion. Montreal’s Bullfrog has been pushing that scene for nearly seven years.

"We were all funk, R&B and blues musicians and it seemed like a natural progression to start writing our own songs with that American bass groove," says Bullfrog vocalist/guitarist Mark Robertson.

"We met Eric San (aka Kid Koala) during the whole acid jazz fad. We would get hired to host different clubs and he was the DJ at one of the jams. That was at the time when jazz musicians started playing along to hip hop beats and usually DJs were hired separately to spin."

Robertson says San instantly clicked with the group, bringing new ideas, a fresh sound and the new name of Bullfrog. San also brought recognition to the group. As Kid Koala, San is a respected DJ worldwide.

"Eric’s an equal member of the group. His role, his instrument – although you can’t always pin point it because he might sound like a keyboard or drums or vocal samples – is part of the collaboration."

Bullfrog released their first self-titled EP last year and Robertson says all the songwriting is indeed a collaboration. Robertson is largely responsible for the lyrics, while each member brings contributions for their own instrument to the table. The turntable, however, is a different matter. It’s not as simple as sitting down and scribbling notes on a staff.

"When Eric hears a song and hears a potential turntable part, that can sometimes influence the writing. Sometimes his function is playing the melody in a groove to actually playing the groove on other songs. The turntable has been quite a versatile instrument."

That turntable is responsible for some of the more ear-catching sounds on the song "Bullfrog Theme". You guessed it, the deep reverberating call of the bullfrog is re-created through an "anonymous sample". Vocal samples are cleverly used to suggest a story line on some tracks and take a quiet backseat on others to let the guitars and drums jazz it up and funk out.

Production, too, is a little unconventional. The band works with a four track in Robertson’s basement. The quality isn’t the slickest on the market, but the rough edges only make you want to get down and dirty on the dance floor.

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