Essentially collaborative ventures the two albums collected on this Prestige two-fer are not only vehicles for McDuff but also, as the title denotes the Soul-injected percussion of Joe Dukes. Both sessions are heavy on grooves, but each suffers from the clichés of the soul jazz idiom despite the dynamic drum play at the core of the group. Broken record boogaloos often relegate all but Dukes to supportive riffing and the glut of incessant vamping behind the drummer’s frequent breaks often flirts dangerously with tedium. Several of the opening tracks are stymied by this problem with track lengths outdistancing the relative creativity of their content. When given room Holloway rips as on the fast clip fracas “Two Bass Hit” and the foot-stomping “My Three Sons.” Benson is equally equipped and his rare moments as lead voice demonstrate a similarly willingness to raise the group out of the circular routine of most of the themes.
For his part McDuff seems perfectly content to play second fiddle sidling to the front mostly on slower tunes like the twilight “The Party’s Over.” Dukes on the other hand solos at length on nearly every number roaming over his kit with an almost manic intensity that suggests a kid alone in a candy shop anxious to plunder as many jars as possible before adults arrive. From the number of grunts and shouts its clear that all his ferocious stick-wielding kicked up quite a sweat, but his preference for endless press rolls at the expense of subtler accents suggests that his bravado may have got the better of him. Fortunately his bombast subsides significantly on later tracks like the ballad “Cry Me a River.” “Hot Barbecue” bastes in flavorful groove and unison band shout advertising the titular delicacy, while the closing rundown of “Redwood City” offers an enticing glimpse of earlier Dukes/McDuff project, the Nomos band, which adds Tyler and Shelvin to the line-up. Put simply these albums are a textbook case of “giving the drummer to much.” But despite the sometimes debilitating skew inherent in the music a good time, funky feeling pervades and as a break beat reservoir ripe for DJ plundering this disc is a veritable treasure trove.
Fantasy on the web: http://www.fantasyjazz.com
Personnel: Jack McDuff- organ; George Benson- guitar; Red Holloway- tenor saxophone; Joe Dukes- drums; Alvin