Don Byron - Do the Boomerang (Blue Note, 2006)
Clarinetist and saxophonist Don Byron's eccentricity is well known in the jazz community as he has recorded tributes to musicians of different genres like klezmer artist Mickey Katz and jazz legends Lester Young and Duke Ellington. Add to that list R&B saxophonist Junior Walker, who was active in the Motown scene in the 1960's and 70's. On this album, Byron appropriately concentrates on tenor saxophone and is joined by David Gilmore on guitar, George Colligan on organ, Brad Jones on bass, Rodney Holmes on drums, Curtis Fowlkes trombone and Dean Bowman and Chris Thomas King on vocals. The music on this CD recalls the glory days of rhythm and blues, keeping the songs short and solos to the point. The band works well as a team, with solos being spread generously amongst group members.
"Mark Anthony Speaks" has some great soul-jazz guitar from Gilmore and greasy Jimmy Smith style organ, and the uproarious "Shotgun" has some bootin' tenor saxophone and very cool funky vocals, as does "Pucker Up, Buttercup" which covers the poppy end of the Walker spectrum with swirling organ and swinging vocals. "There It Is" is a little out of place, being a James Brown cover, Brown and Walker were both pillars of soul music, but their approaches were quite different. While the focus is primarily on uptempo numbers, "What Does It Take" does slow things a little bit to a slow simmering pace, and "Satan's Blues" is a slow, grinding number that gets down and dirty. While I'd really like to hear more original music from Byron and fewer tributes, there's no denying that this disc is a lot of fun and fans of soul-jazz and old-school R&B should enjoy it. The cover art is really cool too, I wish this was available on vinyl...
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