The DooDoo Funk All-Stars is kind of a silly name for a band. But frontman Tony Ozier—Dookie Green when he's in full, glammed-out garb and fronting the group—says there's more than just shock value in the name. He holds up a french fry at Katie O'Brien's on Northeast Sandy Boulevard to illustrate his point. "Let's get to a literal description of DooDoo Funk," he says, an ear-to-ear smile lighting up his long face. "When you think of the DooDoo…I'm not just eating fries. I'm eatin' a burger, I'm eatin' macaroni and cheese, greens, beans, cornbread...all that stuff goes in my stomach and mixes together. And then it comes out as one."
That description is a perfect metaphor for the DooDoo Funk All-Stars' weekly party, the Dookie Jam. Every Wednesday night (usually at Someday Lounge or Club 915), the band hosts an evening of live music that's malleable enough to shift from funk to neo soul, hip-hop to rock, Afro-pop to jazz or dance-hall reggae. The All-Stars—a two-year-old funk/soul collective with origins as the Lifesavas' backing group—are something like the house band for the weekly party, but anyone with talent can step up or step in and change the direction of the band's improvised songs. It's a vibrant, diverse and powerful musical experience that's unlike anything else in Portland. Local music-scene staples like trumpet whiz Farnell Newton and pianist Ben Darwish are regulars at the Jam, but the evening is gaining a reputation with touring musicians as well—Lady Gaga's band, much of The Lion King cast and '80s New Jack Swing hitmaker Al B. Sure! (who also appears on the DooDoo Funk All-Stars album) have all sat in to play. But as wild as the Dookie Jam gets when the stage is flooded by conga players and turntablists, the DooDoo Funk All-Stars themselves are always the main attraction.
Sporting a sound that ranges from neo soul (the gorgeous and smooth "Never Gonna Let You Go," which features Nafisaria Scroggins) to pounding, psychedelic grooves à la Parliament Funkadelic (Bootsy Collins has a fascinating cameo on the hard-driving title track, which ends in a barrage of Collins' farting/pooping noises), the All-Stars make noise on a grand scale on new disc Keep the Funk Alive. Their music features screaming guitars, blaring horn lines, gritty organ hooks and a soulful choir.
Funk, the band members admit, is not a music often associated with Portland: That's part of what drives the band—the All-Stars are trying to put Portland back on the map. "At one point in time, this town was known for funk," Ozier says, citing bands like Pleasure and the Five Fingers of Funk. "So that funk foundation is here."
"It's been a long time, so we need to bridge that gap," drummer Tyrone Hendrix adds. And that's what the Dookie Jam does. The weekly has been an incubator for young talent and a meeting place for new groups. "It's probably birthed like six or seven bands," Hendrix says.
New acts are fine and good, but right now it's the All-Stars who reign supreme. And despite the band's proclivity toward all things fecal, the album is a beastly effort packed with serious musicianship. A year and a half of Dookie Jams have sharpened the players' skills—guitarist A.G. Donnaloia's cutting guitar lines and Errick Lewis' bruising, dextrous bass work are great complements to Ozier's rubbery vocals and Hendrix's deep backbeat. The new album is pristinely self-produced in a throwback style—think of the Daptone Records formula inched up a decade or so. And even when the All-Stars employ more modern songwriting techniques—local MCs Cool Nutz and Soul P both make welcome appearances—there's timelessness to the disc's sound. The All-Stars live up to their name, and there's nary a dull moment on the album.
Moreover, it's a load of fun. "The one thing that keeps the DooDoo Funk running like it does," Ozier says without catching his own joke, "is that we genuinely enjoy playing together. As long as that's happening, I think the world is open to us."
"We want to spread the DooDoo around."
The DooDoo Funk All-Stars release
on Saturday, Nov. 27, at Someday Lounge. 9 pm. $8. 21+.