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From the Inside Out

Groovin in the Summer of Oh Six

By Published: July 11, 2006

Paul "Shilts Weimar
HeadBoppin'
ARTizen Music Group
2006

Paul "Shilts Weimar is usually found blowing alto and tenor sax for UK's contemporary jazz masters Down to the Bone; he was also a member of the UK's acid-jazz/neo-soul collective The Brand New Heavies. HeadBoppin', a collection of nine new originals plus a romp through Stevie Wonder's little-known "Tuesday Heartbreak, is Weimar's debut for a new label formed by, among others, contemporary jazz aces Richard Elliot and Rick Braun, who served as co-producer with Weimar.

"The main idea behind my solo work is that it's completely away from everything I do with Down to the Bone, Weimar explains. "My roots go back to '70s funk and soul stuff, but I also love bringing that up to date with all the new technology...so HeadBoppin' is really a blend of modern sounds and retro flavors.

Weimar masterminds a bright and colorful mixture of Motown soul and contemporary jazz, over which his saxophones blow hard and friendly. His own writing creates melodies so strong that you can't tell which track Wonder wrote without searching the credits. "I've always liked to play in the high energy style of the band, but it's all groove and style, Weimar explains. "With my own material, I write for my sax as if it were a vocal instrument. It's more melody than riff based, and the goal is to create songs that listeners can't get out of their heads.

Mission accomplished. Weimar's band, especially the rhythm section of Ricky Lawson (drums), Lenny Castro (percussion) and Freddie Washington (bass), either chills or cooks, as the groove dictates. Washington sneaks just a wee li'l bit of the P-Funk bomb "Flashlight into his intro to "Break the Mold, a call and response workout between lead saxophone and the band, and drops his own thunderous depth charges from the bridge to summon everyone back to the four/four groove of "I Knew You'd Like This.

Though his hot, bright playing most often suggests David Sanborn, Weimar sounds much the better for the slower groove of the set's one ballad, "Good Evans, which seems to allow him to contemplate the material more deeply—to breathe through instead of blow through his saxophone playing, and to flow through the warm, soft liquid spaces between jazz, funk, soul and pop. The set-ending "Mrs. Magic, a groove that glides clean and sharp, makes you glad to stuck around through the finish.

Charlie Hunter Trio
Copperopolis
Ropeadope
2006

Charlie Hunter's first trio record since 2003's Friends Seen and Unseen balances his talents as a composer (he wrote or co-wrote every track except for the set-ending take of Monk's "Think of One ), as a bandleader, as a band member interplaying with drummer Derrek Phillips and John Ellis (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, Wurlitzer organ and melodica), and as lead guitar hot shot.

Hunter rips the lid off with the first cut, "Cueball Bobbin', which crackles with the electricity of amplified rock, specifically Jimi Hendrix's funk-acid-rock circa his Band of Gypsys soul patrol with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. The mobile fluid bottom moves thick and deep and dark and heavy, following the lead of the guitar's electric squall as Hunter murderously wrings nasty-toned blues licks from the neck of his guitar. (Says the guitarist, "I was just feeling rocky, I guess... )

The trio nails this Monk classic, which isn't always quite so user-friendly, down flat. The bass, drum and saxophone funk trio that opens up its middle passage is deeply soulful, quicksilver small ensemble jazz—played, I suspect, in precisely the light and humorously way that a grinning Monk would love to hear it.

Monk's sensibility also seems to seep into the title track. Ellis' tenor seems to softly pad in and look around for its opening, then settles down into an extended blues duet with Hunter's electrified Delta guitar. It seems to suggest the interplay between tenor and piano in a blues played by Monk; its melody seems to build upon its notes in oddly geometric, little incremental steps, like many Monk melodies do, too.

"Blue Sock and "A Street Fight Could Break Out mine more inspiration from the blues. "Sock swings through an airy bridge into juke-joint soul you might hear at a barbeque throwdown with Eddie Harris and Les McCann, and comes to rest with Hunter plucking soft country guitar blues as Ellis' melodica howls like a harmonica, just kickin' back on the front porch. "A Street Fight Could Break Out tethers from its central passage of just bass and drum, cavernously thumping dub reggae style, thick and spacey.

(One possible problem with this sequencing: The hard-rockin' "Cueball Bobbin' is easily the best piece, yet it doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of this set, which seems more structured, lending more emphasis to the compositions then the playing of the compositions. Making it the leadoff track seems to set rock-oriented listeners up for a payoff that never comes.)



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