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The Nth Power: One band that’s really funked up

The Nth Power kicks off their Thank You Winter Tour tonight.
The Nth Power kicks off their Thank You Winter Tour tonight.
Michael Weintrob

The recent Grammy Awards acknowledged every music genre known to mankind – as well as a few that mankind has never even heard of. Heck, how else to explain a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album?

But it was the genre that got no credit that had The Nth Power’s Nikki Glaspie rolling her eyes. “People don’t recognize funk the way that I think it should be recognized. There’s not even a funk category for Grammy’s. There’s not a funk category when you register your songs.”

“Without funk, hip hop would not exist. There are certain types of R & B that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for funk. Funk is a major influence on lots of different types of music, pop music even. Funk led to disco. Disco led to dance. It’s like there’s a whole bunch of music that just would not have happened if funk didn’t happen first, you know?”

The dynamic rhythmist knows of what she speaks. Drummer Glaspie (Dumpstaphunk, Beyoncé) is a key piece of the fresh collaboration along with keyboardist Nigel Hall (Lettuce, Warren Haynes Band), bassist Nate Edgar (John Brown's Body), percussionist Weedie Braimah (Kreative Pandemonium, Toubab Krewe) and guitarist Nick Cassarino (Jennifer Hartswick Band).

The band brings together five leading lights in music to create a sound as distinctive as its message is profound. With gospel-tinged three-part harmonies and a merciless blend of world-beat, funk, gospel and jazz, The Nth Power proves that exceptional music can be exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

The collective kicks off the second leg of their debut Thank You Winter Tour tonight with a 9 p.m. gig at Last Exit Live in Phoenix. From there the funketeers will be spreading their global message of love and understanding in Colorado and Utah in late January and early February 2014, before ending on a warmer note with two performances at Best Fest in Costa Rica.

Named for their new single, "Thank You", the tour builds on a run of impressive live debuts in late 2013 – including an acclaimed set at the Bear Creek Music Festival and a 12-show Eastern swing highlighted by a performance with Lettuce at Chicago's Concord Music Hall.

Glaspie has played for audiences around the world and readily pointed out the differences in the crowds. “Yeah, yeah definitely. In Japan, people are more reserved I would say. They sit and they watch and they don’t talk, they don’t move.”

“I really think that it’s the ultimate respect to pay attention, pay undivided attention. So that’s what they do. And when the song is over, they clap, and then that’s it. They don’t make any more noise and they just wait for you to start again and keep playing.”

“I think of it as a challenge every time I go to Japan because for a drummer, if people aren’t dancing, I'm not doing my job. So I try to make every single person in the audience move something, even if it’s just a toe tap or the snap of a finger. But my goal ultimately is to get everybody in the room moving.”

Glaspie definitely knows how to get people moving – due in part to the fact that she’s been playing virtually her whole life. “I started playing drums when I was two. I started getting paid for playing drums when I was 15. I was a full time drummer for my church when I was about eight or nine.”

“Then we moved from Maryland to North Carolina when I started my first year of high school. And then it was like, ‘Okay, it’s time to get paid, because I had been playing in church for free for years.”

Not surprisingly, Glaspie has used all of that finely-tuned talent to play with some extraordinary artists, among them Beyoncé and Ivan Neville. And also not surprisingly, she’s learned a few lessons along the way.

“I would have to say just an overall work ethic. I learned a lot from Beyoncé because she is a work horse. She does not stop. She is persistent and incessant. It’s like she’s obsessed (laughing) with perfection.”

“It’s definitely something that I admire and I'm trying to take a page out of that book. I try not to go overboard, there are limits to everything. You can't have a 20-hour rehearsal and expect to get results in the last eight hours of that.”

Glaspie has spent many an hour honing her craft. Misguided music fans sometimes mistakenly believe that drummers just sit inconspicuously in the back of the stage and just play along. But Glaspie knows better. “I learned a long time ago that the band is only as good as their drummer (laughing).”

“It does just come down to that. I am driving the bus and it’s my favorite thing to do. I had a teacher at college that taught me that because I was a drummer, I am the leader of the band. It’s like I tell them where to go because they can't go without me. I love driving the bus. I'm a driver (laughing).”

The “bus driver” is much more than “just” a musician, doubling as an accomplished composer. But the different musical roads seem to have a common destination. “Yeah absolutely. Being a musician definitely helps being a better composer.”

“Now, I will say that there are great composers that are not great musicians. That’s just talent, you know what I mean? But for me, I've been playing music much longer than I've been writing it. So I would say that at this point I'm a stronger musician, but I'm diligently working on becoming a better composer.”

Glaspie’s strength as a player isn’t surprising given the youthful veteran’s diverse experience with Beyoncé, Dumpstafunk and now The Nth Power. But she seems to be in the right place at the right time.

“The dynamic is completely different (laughing). How can I explain it? We just know that we’re supposed to be together. I guess that’s really it, so everything is like a synchronicity. I kind of know what Nigel is thinking or what Nick is thinking and what Nate is thinking.”

“I know what Weedie’s thinking because we’re all thinking the same thing (laughing), which is we want to change people’s hearts and minds about life in general and about other people’s lives. We want to inspire and heal because we’re all just so full of love. We love each other, but it just overflows in the music, and that’s kind of what the whole thing is about. That’s why it’s definitely fate because we believe that we’re here to do something else.”

“It may just be that we’re in a band, that’s the vehicle that we use to make a change. The music is just a bonus. We could be carpenters, we could be electricians, we could be car sales people and we could be politicians. But we would still be all together, doing whatever it is that we’re doing.”

For music fans everywhere, let’s just hope that The Nth Power keeps on keepin’ on.

Here are the tour dates for the Thank You Winter Tour:

Jan. 29 Last Exit Live Phoenix, Ariz.

Jan. 31 Shakedown Bar Aspen, Colo.

Feb. 1 Cervantes Denver, Colo.

Feb. 4 Urban Lounge Salt Lake City, Utah

Feb. 7 Costa Ballena, Costa Rica

Feb. 9 Costa Ballena, Costa Rica

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