With "Live At Zanzibar Blue", not only has Encounter Records called the listening public's attention to an energetic and inspiring drummer who has been performing below the radar screen of listeners beyond the Philadelphia area for way too long. But also, the label has captured the atmosphere of a live organ quartet performancewhich of late has been all too rarein one of Philadelphia's leading jazz clubs. As far as I know, Zanzibar Blue hasn't been the venue for many live recordings, as other cities' clubs have been.
It's about time that Zanzibar Blue gets its due.
And Webb Thomas' due, too.
Webb T. has backed up a wide range of better-known recording artists like Pat Martino, Uri Caine, Odean Pope, Greg Osby, Kevin Eubanks and Jimmy Heath and George Benson. His experience shows.
From the introduction of "Watermelon Man," Webb T's Fleet crackles with surges of electricity, leaving plenty of power to spare.
And Webb T's Fleet has fun.
"Watermelon Man", combining a Benson boogaloo feel with the irresistible vamp of a "Headhunters" tune, snaps with a funk groove that composer Herbie Hancock no doubt would approve of.
Beyond the beat, though, "Watermelon Man" introduces the listener to the musicians as they stretch out in celebratory choruses that are meant to involve the audience. Once guitarist Sudler breaks out of the background fills, all of a sudden the listener is surprised to hear a supremely logical and melodic solo over the modified blues changes of the tune. And the realization sinks in that Sudler is a talented and under-recognized force on his instrument
Organist Koehler deepens the texture of the group with the power and sometimes gospel-flavored allure of the organ that became popular in the East Coast and Midwest organ circuit on the 1960's and early 1970's. Saxophonist Pressley possesses a biting and distinctive alto style that sinks into the flavor of the music while remaining individualistic.
Performing a selection of tunes roiling with a natural current that invites a spiritual flow from the listeners, Webb T's Fleet knows its audience and indeed seems to be inspired by its listeners.
For a chance to be a fly on the wall at Zanzibar Blue and experience the vibrations of an exciting group connecting with the crowd, as opposed to the chance to sit in a studio sound room for a controlled recording of absolute technological perfection, check out "Live At Zanzibar Blue".
It's the next best thing to being in the audience.
Watermelon Man, Ugetsu, Love Vibrations, Why Not, Founding Fathers, This Here, Founding Fathers (Radio Edit)