Burnt Sugar, also known as Burnt Sugar, the Arkestra Chamber, is an American improvisational band. The band's music combines the influences of funk, jazz, rock, reggae, soul, hip hop, heavy metal, and 20th century classical music. It has been described by one critic as a "funk-rock-electronic-samba-soul-jazz-fusion-whatever ensemble". One critic wrote that Burnt Sugar's music "is not the easiest thing to describe", while another critic wrote that "Burnt Sugar sounds like a big cloud".
Burnt Sugar was founded in 1999 by guitarist and writer Greg Tate. Among the band's influences are Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, Funkadelic, Bad Brains, Band of Gypsys, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi, and Material.
The membership of Burnt Sugar is fluid. As many as 40 musicians have passed through the band and are available to play with it, although the group's core consists of about 12 musicians. Notable musicians who have played with Burnt Sugar include guitarists Pete Cosey, who played in Davis' band during the early 1970s, and Vernon Reid, guitarist for the funk metal band Living Colour. Other members of the group have included pianist Vijay Iyer, saxophonists Avram Fefer and Matana Roberts, and trumpeter Lewis "Flip" Barnes.
Tate serves as Burnt Sugar's leader, using a system called "conduction" to direct the musicians as they improvise. Conduction, which was developed by Butch Morris, is a series of hand and baton signals that cue various musical themes or musicians. Tate said that under conduction, "the band becomes the instrument of the conductor's will." He has described his role as conductor as:
akin to Mickey Mouse in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" section of Fantasia. Diddling with forces he doesn't quite understand, snapping his fingers, opening the floodgates, occasioning a deluge. Drowning the room in the music of African ascent.
- Blood on the Leaf: Opus No. 1 (2000)
- That Depends on What You Know 1: The Sirens Return / Keep It Real 'Til It Flatlines (2001)
- That Depends on What You Know 2: The Crepescularium (2001)
- That Depends on What You Know 3: Fubractive Since Antiquity Suite (2001)
- Black Sex Yall Liberation & Bloody Random Violets (2003)
- The Rites: Conductions Inspired by Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (2003)
- Not April in Paris: Live from Banlieus Bleues (2004)
- If You Can't Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth (2005)
- More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion (2006)
- Burnt Sugar Chopped and Screwed Volume 2 (2006)
- Live from Minnegiggle Falls (2007)
- Burnt Sugar Vs. The Dominatrix (2007)
- Never Been Kissed: The Groidest Shiznits 1999-2006 (2007)
- Making Love to the Dark Ages (2009)
- All Ya Needs That Negrocity (2011)
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