Funk and hip-hop are pals. The boom-bap of the kick-snare provides a backbone for the wiggly boogie woogie in the horns, and a couple of brews later, it’s pretty much all good as long as those elements are firmly in place.

So, on Grant Street Orchestra’s latest album, “Passionately Late,” the funk-hop flows easy. The Portland outfit has cooked together a feisty record where the instrumentals are so strong, it doesn’t really matter that the rhymes served up by co-MCs Mint and I-Kue mostly feel like stale Spose knockoffs.

It’s a shame that GSO feels like they need to clutter every verse with rap rhymes instead of developing their stand-out jammy riffs by bringing Geoff Zimmerman and Henry Redman’s spot-on horn work more to the fore.

On “Phone Sex,” a sweet and simple John Scofield-like intro is all of sudden smothered by lots of words, to the point where you’re trying to listen around the raps.

Thankfully, the band shows they know the power of restraint too. On the gorgeous night fog backdrop of “Lurkin’,” the rhymes are a little gentler and the beat is paced for a 4 a.m. Portland walk home with headphones.

Overall, “Passionately Late” delivers. These tracks will translate beautifully to the stage, and everyone will go home happy. But by sticking to a rap formula, Grant Street Orchestra has limited what their immense talent could be capable of.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer.


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