Junior Walker Revival

Jr. Walker A Jr. Walker and the all Stars Revival
Jazz Meets Motown
by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

Suddenly, the music of the classic Motown act, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars is showing up on a number of albums. Within the last month, three sax players, Eddie M, Richard Elliot, and David McMurray have paid homage to the late saxophonist and vocalist with inspiring covers of his hits. While it’s way overdue for contemporary jazz saxophonists to realize the influence Walker had on combining funk with pop and jazz rhythms, it is nonetheless satisfying to hear the tributes. If you’re a fan of Walker’s check these out.

Eddie M., the young sax man, most recently seen touring with vocalist Eric Benet, has re-recorded Walker’s biggest hit, What Does It Takes (To Win Your Love For Me), on his second album. The eponymous release features vocalist Karyn White handling the lead vocals on the track.. A few years ago, saxophonist Candy Dulfer breathed new life into this classic with Jonathan Butler handling the lead. This version is even hotter.

Richard Elliot’s new album is called Crush, which is a misnomer because he’s only hitting hard on just a few tunes, including a remake of Walker’s first big pop hit, Shotgun. The track features killer guitar work from both Jeff Golub and ex-Rufus front man, Tony Maiden.

Dave McMurray has the Jr. Walker and the All-Stars tour de force with two of the fourteen tracks from his new Soul Searching cd being covers of Walker’s jazzy hits. Like Walker, McMurray is from Michigan and like the late sax man he has a biting edge to his sax sound. On Walk In The Night, he featured the Motor City’s very underrated background trio, the Ridgeway Sisters, and McMurray just nails Cleo’s Mood. Both are highlights from this very tasteful album.

It’s not too late for other sax players to jump on this Jr. Walker & The All Stars revival, because he had enough hits for Boney James, David Sanborn, Gerald Albright and a few other saxophonists to work with. There’s still Roadrunner, Cleo’s Back, These Eyes and a few more to tackle. We’d love to hear them. Until then the Jr. Walker Motown anthology will suffice.