Part 1: Way Back When. I had a colleague that always insisted that the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s recording Green River sounded better on vinyl than remastered for compact disc. I compared the two and I found this to be true, but probably not for any sonic reasons. Analog recordings are almost always warmer and rounder than their digital counterparts. There is something about that slightly “muddy” sound (and if you are wondering what I mean by that, listen to the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street on vinyl) that makes me and many other listeners comfortable. The analog sound is a romantic notion as delicate and permeating as smoke. The digital sound is sharp, hard and in your face. The analog sound is about the long ago and far away; the digital sound is about today, tomorrow, and forever.
Part 2. These were the thoughts crossing my mind as I listened to tenor veteran Benny Golson’s recent Arcadia release That’s Funky. This disc is home to the reconsideration of some standards of the Hard Bop revolution. “Mack the Knife” and the Weill original “Moriate” (so effectively covered originally by Sonny Rollins on Saxophone Colossus ) are both realized here in their pristine ideal. “Moanin’” and “Blues March”, two tunes forever linked to Golson, are reprised. Lee Morgan and Nat Adderley (who provides trumpet support, one of his last recordings) offer “The Sidewinder” and “Work Song” to the mix. All of the performances are splendidly executed, solos well considered, and performance spontaneously conceived.
This music requires a Bobby Timmons mentality and I can think of no one better than Monty Alexander to fill that bill (in light of the recent death of Gene Harris). Ray Drummond and Marvin Smith are old heads who perfectly fill out this super cast of characters. What could possibly be better? In two words: the originals. That is not to slight the performances here, they are very fine. I would encourage all who read this to buy this disc and once curious, invest in the original recordings of these tunes. You cannot go wrong.
There is no mixed bag here; this is an excellent disc. It will be a fine addition to any fan of jazz. But the originals are brilliant artifacts that while old are still essential to the proper understanding of this great American music.