Monday, 17 March 2014

Review: Lou Donaldson - Everything I Play Is Funky

‘Everything I Play Is Funky’ is one of Lou Donaldson’s best takes on the commercial funk and soul inflected jazz of the 1970’s, that while sure to antagonise any purists of jazz scholars will easily find many admirers in the groove crowd. Relaxed and strutting, the music is carried forward with steady casual ease, and that’s what makes the session work – low on group and individual improvisation, heavy on groove.

The obligatory cover of a soul or R&B hit, which normally approaches disastrous, is carried off much stronger than usual, with the near title track ‘Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On)’, and it makes a great opener, before being followed by a take on Lionel Hampton’s simple ‘Hamp’s Hump’ and then a melodically rich, and thankfully free of schmaltz, ‘Over The Rainbow’.

Three Donaldson originals that make up the second half of the album are where the real money is though, with ‘Donkey Walk’ laying down a driving funk and propelling everyone involved to give their best performances, especially in the solos. ‘West Indian Daddy’ carries an appropriately Caribbean vibe and a buoyant mood that sounds like everyone in the studio is having a great time, and the closing ‘Minor Bash’ sounds more jazz flavoured than the rest of the pieces here, but not too much as not to fit in with the rest.

All in all, it’s a good session, with a good mix of material and moods, with key credit going to the rhythm section of Melvin Sparks on guitar, bassist Jimmy Sparks and funk drummer maestro Idris Muhammad. Charles Earland and Lonnie Smith alternate on organ, and Blue Mitchell and Eddie Williams switch around on trumpet duties, and everyone shines, with no-one letting the side down. Lou Donaldson from 1970 onward would tend to make mostly inconsistent and disappointing records in the funk style, but ‘Everything…’ manages to be one of his very few that rise above the mire and stand on its own two feet as a much-loved soulful funk-jazz recording.


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