Baton Rouge’s funk-jazz-fusion sextet, the adventurous Captain Green, will celebrate its second album Friday night at the Varsity Theatre.
“Protect Each Other Together” runs more than an hour, even though it contains only six selections. Four of the tracks last between 10 and 17 minutes. And there’s no singing.
“We like the freedom we have without a vocalist,” bassist Robert Kling explained by phone from a tour date in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Not that we don’t love music with vocals, but that’s just not where we’re going now.”
Keyboardist Ross Hoppe, Captain Green’s principal composer, agrees.
“A lot of vocal music is inspiring, but that’s not how I write at this point,” he said.
When Captain Green recorded its latest album last summer at the local Red Pyramid Studios, it opted to play the music the way it’s played on stage.
“Rather than condense the songs into something else,” Kling explained. “The songs breathe nicely, their pacing is natural. That’s one of the things we learned in the past few years, to not hurry through songs on stage. On tour, all the other stuff is crazy and hectic, but when we’re playing, that’s the happy time, when we finally enjoy it.”
The strength of the band’s compositions, Kling said, shines through “Protect Each Other Together.”
“They unfold like stories,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like anyone else. It sounds like us.”
“I arrange horns like you’d see horns arranged for jazz bands,” Hoppe said of his compositional style. “Various things can inspire me and then it snowballs from there. But sometimes a song is just based around a riff.”
Captain Green’s funky fusion is also the product of the band’s collective taste, Kling said.
“We like everything from traditional jazz to Herbie Hancock funk from the ’70s. We love Frank Zappa. But we’re down for any type of genuine music. If it’s genuine, we can find something in it that we like.”
The indigenous funk and rhythm-and-blues of New Orleans is a key influence.
“Going on the road made me appreciate that music more,” Kling said. “Not everywhere we go has that, but it’s second nature for us.”
Growing up in Baton Rouge, Hoppe experienced regular exposure to New Orleans music when his uncle drove him to school every day.
“He always put on Dr. John’s ‘Goin’ Back to New Orleans’ album,” Hoppe said. “There’s a lot of funk music on that album, a lot of traditional New Orleans brass jazz, Mardi Gras Indians music, Mardi Gras parade music. New Orleans is a huge influence on me personally and this group.”
The New Orleans piano tradition, which includes Dr. John, affected him, too, Hoppe said. “James Booker is my favorite piano player. Everybody who plays piano out of New Orleans is trying to be like James Booker.”
In addition to performing with Captain Green, Hoppe plays in a trio with Kling and drummer Chad Braud most Wednesdays through Fridays at Lock & Key Whiskey Bar. This week he’ll play there 9 p.m. Saturday.
January is the fifth anniversary of the launch of Captain Green.
“A few years into it now, we’ve got vision and drive,” Kling said. “We’re moving, growing and reaching more audiences, writing new music and having fun the whole time.”
“We’re just going to keep hitting the road, like we’ve been doing,” Hoppe added. “We’ve done well in the Southeast. That’s where funk music comes from, the South. It’s time to move it up north.”