A nine-piece instrumental band, the Sure Fire Soul Ensemble looked to classic funk, jazz, fusion, and soul to inspire their hard-hitting original compositions.
The influence of everything from the Meters' greasy funk to hip-hop-informed rhythms showed up on the group's many singles and albums like 2019's fiery Build Bridges.
The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble was formed by San Diego keyboardist/songwriter Tim Felten in 2012. Inspired by the funk and soul of artists ranging from Herbie Hancock to Dr. Octagon, Felten assembled a large group to breathe life into his instrumental soul-jazz tunes. The first iteration of the ensemble included Felten on keys and percussion, guitarist Nicholas Costa, bassist Matthew LaBarber, saxophone and flute player Chris Lea, drummer Pete Williams, and Bill Caballero on trumpet and flugelhorn. This early version of the band first recorded the deep funk songs that made up a limited-edition 7" entitled Layin' Low. The record was pressed in an edition of 500 in 2013 as the group played often on the West Coast. A second single, "City Heights" b/w "Strollin' Adams," arrived in 2015, as did the ensemble's self-titled full-length debut. The album featured an extended lineup that included new members Kiko Cornejo, Jr. and Sheryll Pasis on percussion as well as second saxophonist Jesse Audelo.
The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble continued to release one-off 7" singles, and their second full-length, Out on the Coast, arrived in October 2016. By this time, there was some reshuffling of the original lineup, with new tenor sax player Robert Dove on board and Sheryll Pasis now Sheryll Felten. In March 2019, the group teamed with vocalist Kelly Finnigan for a faithful cover of the Honey Drippers' 1973 anti-Nixon political funk tune "Impeach the President." Their third album, Build Bridges, followed shortly after in September of the same year. ~ Fred Thomas, Rovi