"The whole 'March to the Witch's Castle' is when the Vietnam War was over and the real battle began," he continues. "He might have been killing people, but his real war starts when he gets home because of the whole smokescreen or whatever. So we added that in there musically."

While United Sound Pipe owes a lot to Clinton's influence, the band also recruited a longtime member of the P-Funk family to play on the record: Local musician Rick Gardner, who also played with Bootsy's Rubber Band, added some mean trumpet playing on "Shookie." Gardner and U.S. Pipe are in the early stages of planning an album that could include former James Brown trombonist Fred Wesley and Prince trombonist Greg Boyer. In addition to Gardner, a few other notable members of the P-Funk family have contributed to the Pipe, including P-Funk drummer Rico Lewis and bassist Lige Curry, who flew in to perform with the outfit when it first formed in 2005. Aside from those three higher-profile players, forty members have been in the group over the course of its existence.

"I quit counting at 38 members last year," Sauthoff says, noting that a majority have been horn players, vocalists or just friends rolling in to jam. It's taken a while, but he feels like the band is finally starting to lock in. "We're still waiting for it to really feel like it's perfect," he says. "It's going to take more communication, sharing, trust and growth, and time and energy." Drummer Chris Murphy says a key to cohesion is dealing with each other. And with eight people in the current lineup, there's a lot of compromising that needs to happen before things get done.

The funk brothers (and sister): Ryan Chrys (from left), Missy Gutreuter , Chris Murphy, Azma Holiday, Chris Sauthoff, Michael Chiesa, Jimmy Chiesa and Kurt Rosebecker are U.S. Pipe.
The funk brothers (and sister): Ryan Chrys (from left), Missy Gutreuter , Chris Murphy, Azma Holiday, Chris Sauthoff, Michael Chiesa, Jimmy Chiesa and Kurt Rosebecker are U.S. Pipe.


U.S. Pipe CD-release show, with Future Jazz Project and foma*, 8 p.m. Thursday, February 19, Bluebird Theater, 935 East Colfax Avenue, $10-$12, 303-830-8497.

"Now we're just starting to create more together as a unit," says Gutreuter, "whereas before, everyone was bringing in a full song."

The band isn't the only thing that's evolved over the years. The act truncated its previous handle in favor of the current one a few years ago. "A lot of people never understood what it was about," Sauthoff says. "A lot of people asked what it meant or spelled it wrong. It was funny and it was cool, but it wasn't working."

The previous moniker, U.S. Pipe and the Balls Johnson Dance Machine, was inspired by a scene from Next Friday in which actor John Witherspoon, who plays Ice Cube's father, kicks him out of the house. In the scene, Witherspoon says, "You gotta get out, boy. Me and your mom are gonna get crazy buck wild naked in here. My johnson's gonna be one way, my balls the other. It's gonna be the Balls Johnson dance. I'm gonna be free. I'm gonna let it all out,'" Sauthoff recounts.

"That's what this is," he concludes, "letting this all go. Freedom. My musical experience at that time had been knee-deep in 'Atomic Dog' and 'Maggot Brain,' and these real explicit parts that you could not deviate from and that were not mine. I loved it; it was great. I learned a lot. But it wasn't fulfilling. I felt trapped. But this way, I felt free. That's what it meant to me. It didn't mean a stiff dick. It just meant that it was gonna do its thing...let it go."

Sounds like a sentiment the godfather himself would endorse.

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