Brookline Village haunt Matt Murphy's rang in some changes with the new year. Its regular Tuesday night live music "Public House" session switched from jazz fusion to soul and funk when the B3 Kings took over. This band includes Boston roots music scene veterans Paul Wolstencraft, Timo Shanko, Sam Kininger, and Johnny Trama, with the occasional guest sitting in. The B3 Kings will perform a free-style set of Stax-style originals mixed with the occasional classic R&B and funk cover. Of course, the quartet takes its name from the Hammond B3 organ, whose signature soulful whirring sound colored so many of the old-school R&B and proto-soul cuts.
Favorite James Brown cut: Kininger calls it: "'Make It Funky' is the definitive JB cut and B3 Kings mantra."
Matt Murphy's, 14 Harvard St., Brookline. 617-232-0188. !Tuesday nights at 10. No cover. mattmurphyspub.com
This month saw the start of a new Tuesday soul night at the Enormous Room in Central Square. Soulman about town P.J. Gray will haul his old soul, funk, and R&B discs into the DJ booth to host and spin at "Galactic Fractures" which takes its name from Gray's Sunday afternoon radio show on WMFO. Needless to say, total respect goes to the late Godfather of Soul, who stays in heavy rotation, along with underground soul artists such as veteran New Orleans funksters Eddie Bo and Inell Young.
Favorite James Brown cut: "'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag,'" says Gray. "It basically paved the way for what we know as funk music. Before that, most soul music had an emphasis on the 2-4 beats, while James changed that to a 1-3 and gave us a completely new genre of music."
The Enormous Room, 567 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-491-5550.! Tuesday nights at 9. No cover. enormous.tv
Every Wednesday night, Jason Beek and P.J. Eastman bring "Primitive Sounds" to River Gods, tracking soul music's roots through the Memphis sound of Stax and across the Mississippi Delta to the Motown pop of the 1960s. "Our guest DJs bring in different music," says Beek, "but when it comes to soul, we tend to include more Stax and gospel-oriented stuff such as the Staple Singers and the original Blind Boys of Alabama." For Beek, bluesmen like Junior Kimbrough and John Lee Hooker are pure soul. And there's no denying that.
Favorite James Brown cut: "'The Payback.' It has this great theatrical buildup. The song swells and explodes," says Beek. "'You just don't want to get in this man's way!"
River Gods, 25 River St., Cambridge. 617-576-1881. Wednesday nights at 9. No cover.
Over at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain, "Stardust," which occurs every third Wednesday of the month, finds DJ Nomadik spinning such soul survivors as Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Earth Wind & Fire, alongside contemporary soulmen like Common and Mos Def. "It's totally a soul, funk, true hip-hop-cool vibe," says Nomadik. She likes to mix in James Brown tracks, along with hip-hop artists influenced by his music, such as Public Enemy, EPMD, L.L. Cool J, and Run-DMC. As Nomadik, who heads Soulkore Productions, says, "If it got soul, then you'll definitely hear it at any Soulkore event."
Favorite James Brown cut: "There are many to choose from obviously, but when I hear 'Get Up' (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine, Pt. 1,' I instantly start to dance."
The Milky Way, 405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-3740. Every third Wednesday at 9 p.m. No cover. milkywayjp.com
ZuZu's regular Saturday "Soul-le-lu-jah" night, now in its fourth year, started as a bimonthly event but soon went weekly. DJ Claude Money, a.k.a. Sean Quinn, took over a couple of years ago, bringing in a changing cast of DJs that includes roots musicians Eli "Paperboy" Reed and Justin and Tara Hubbard (of the Turpentine Brothers). "Rotation has been a big part of our success," Quinn says. Soul spins range from the obscure to eclectic Motown hits: "Anything from Mickey and the Mice's 'Crackerjack' to Aretha Franklin doing 'Rock Steady,'" says Money. "Or," he muses, "Ike and Tina Turner's 'Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter" to Professor Longhair performing 'Big Chief.'
Favorite James Brown cut: "The man had the Midas touch. All solid gold. Sometimes, after a great set, I like to drop 'I Got You (I Feel Good),'" says Quinn.
ZuZu, 474 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-864-3278. Saturday nights at 10. No cover. mideastclub.com