Benny Golson Funky Quintet – That’s Funky

Benny Golson Funky Quintet
That’s Funky
(Arkadia Jazz – 2000)
by John Barrett

Here’s some musical history, from the guys who helped write it. In mid-Fifties, when hard bop was pushing jazz forward, some fellows looked back to the gospel roots. It was played by folks like Art Blakey and Cannonball Adderley; they called it “soul-jazz”, “church blues” and funk. With a splendid trio behind them, two giants of this style lock horns, stirring the blues kettle one last time. (This proved to be Nat Adderley’s final recording.) The tunes are familiar, the players are strong, and the groove is welcome as an old friend. I think it’s time to get reacquainted.

Ray Drummond bends a deep twang, and we are off: a high-stepping jaunt through “Mack the Knife”. (There’s also a cool, “Modern Bebop Version” – two sides of a flashy coin.) Monty Alexander has a classy touch, gleaming notes and clever quotes. (He’s partial to Monk, and that’s a good thing!) Nat fluffs a few times but the feeling is right; mellow excursions, spiced with some stunners. Benny’s beyond stunning – he’s got a dozen styles, and a place to use each. On this one he pops; there’s a throaty yawn on “Moanin'”, a Johnny Griffin yell on “Work Song”. (Check Drummond’s walkin’ part: it’s pure R & B, and pure fun.) Lots of moods, lots of funk – Benny calls these “money tunes”, and they really pay off!

“Mississippi Windows” is a new tune that tells an old story. The chords borrowed from Ray Charles’ “Lonely Avenue”, Monty strides with the after-hours feel. (Listen close and you’ll catch “Misterioso”!) “The Sidewinder” is all Nat,with firm attack and delicious flutters. That one struts nicely; likewise for “Blues March”, which Benny wrote for Blakey some forty years ago. Nat blares, Benny sails, “Smitty” Smith drills that cadence for all it’s worth. Every tune shines, full of power that anyone can understand. And anyone can enjoy.