Bongo Furys are bringing the funk for Nooner


Joseph Daniels - The State Hornet

John Webster plays percussion for the Bongo Furys at Fox and Goose Pub on Sept. 15. The band will play at Sacramento on Sept. 27.

Joseph Daniels

The Bongo Furys evolved from a Frank Zappa-inspired band into a progressive funk act with influences from jazz-fusion style acts made popular in the ’70s.

Zappa was an experimental musician who blended jazz, rock and pop music together. The Bongo Furys take their name from one of the members’ favorite Zappa album “Bongo Fury.” They will be performing a Nooner at Sacramento State on Sept. 27.

Will Scharff, the keyboardist for Bongo Furys, has played in the band for about 10 years. The first Zappa song he first listened to was “Overnight Sensation” when he was a teenager.

“I just was blown away by the music,” Scharff said. “It was everything that was orchestrated with those pieces, I just never heard anything like my whole life.”

Todd Perez, the guitarist for the band, said their other influences include rock musician Jeff Beck and jazz-fusion group Return to Forever.

“We’re a jazzy, bluesy, funky fun (act),” Perez said about the band.

Though the band started off playing Zappa-inspired sounds, Scharff said they drifted away from the genre after they could not find an audience for their music. Scharff said another factor was that it was hard to find band members who were willing to take the time to learn to play Zappa music.

“We are such die hard Zappa fans,” Scharff said. “We were reluctant to change from that. We just couldn’t find that many people who could play Zappa or who were as into Zappa as we are.”

Perez plays guitar for the latin reggae band Sol Peligro and usually performs with the Bongo Furys during the winter months of the year. Much like himself, Perez’s fellow band members come from diverse backgrounds like jazz and blues.

“We learn over the years you can’t eat with bread alone,” Perez said. “We gotta go ahead and give people some more variety.”

The Bongo Furys play a balance of instrumentals and songs with lyrics.

“We do love instrumentals,” Perez said. “We can do it all night long if you would let us, but we do find typically most gigs somebody is going to want to hear some songs with lyrics in it.”

The Bongo Furys are currently writing music for their first album, and some of their music can be found on ReverbNation.

The band members met each other through ads and word of mouth, with people coming and going as the years went on. Laurel Partin, the saxophonist, joined the Bongo Furys three years ago after she sat in during one of their rehearsals.

Partin said she was impressed by the way Perez could improvise his guitar beats on the spot.

“(Todd) has got a very organic approach to his music and his improvisation,” Partin said. “He actually has a sensitive and thoughtful approach to his guitar sounds, and then he also as a delectable way to choose and wander around when he is improvising.”

Partin said that while the band has plans for how songs will be performed at every show, they will morph them as their act progresses.

“(The band) is like a smorgasbord of creativity,” Partin said. “There’s so few groups where you can do that and not feel restrained so much.”