By: Tim Dwenger
New York City Grammy winning jazz musician and producer Jason Miles has orchestrated and produced a recording that has restored my faith in live concert recordings. The subtle off-mic chuckles between songs, the slight missteps, basically everything that makes live music the ferocious, compelling beast that it is has been captured on this recording. With the production value of a great studio album and just the right amount of audience noise to accentuate the moments when you are jumping off your couch at home, this record brings this late '60s/early '70s style soul to life.
The album jumps right into the heat of the battle with Richard Elliot (Tower of Power) taking the reigns on a blazing rendition of Junior Walker's "Shotgun" that immediately sucks you in and proves from the get-go that this band is chock full of some of the most serious, soulful musicians on the scene today. The group, assembled by Miles for one show only at the Berks JazzFest in 2007, is comprised of powerhouse vocalists Susan Tedeschi, Maysa Leak and Mike Mattison (Derek Trucks Band), saxophonists Karl Denson, Elliot, Dave Mann and Barry Danielian, bassist Bob Babbitt (Marvin Gaye), guitarists Reggie Young (Elvis Presley and Ray Charles) and Sherrod Barnes, and trumpeter Tony Kadlek.
A take on Laura Lee's "What a Man" follows the uptempo sax-laced opener and Leak's soulful rendition pushes the song to the limits of what it was on its original 1969 single. The song features a blistering solo from Denson, and goes a long way to show that this album is much more than a trip down musical memory lane. It is, in Miles' trademark style, a reinvention of the classic sounds that defined the funk, soul and R&B genres.
As the record moves on Mattison slows the pace and conjures up images of Percy Sledge as he takes over on lead vocals on "It Tears Me Up" before yielding to Tedeschi, who is out front for one of the flatter songs on the album, a take on Irma Thomas's "It's Raining." However, she redeems herself when she steps up to the Dusty Springfield classic "Son of a Preacher Man" and gives it a heartfelt, bluesy treatment that Dusty would have approved of.
The album rounds out with a truly fitting 12-minute tribute to the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown. With the three vocalists trading stanzas on "I Feel Good" and even Denson slink stepping down from his riser to take the helm on "Sex Machine," it's clear that this group of musicians had a great time under the direction of the legendary Jason Miles and so will you.
JamBase | Soulsville
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