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Porterhouse Quintet: Thumbs Up little Buddy

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Sometimes a band comes along that defines a time, plants a flag as a marker of human musical evolution on this planet. The Porterhouse Quintet is just such a band, but the time is circa 1975.

Porterhouse resurrects a time when fusion meant jazz/funk not jazz/rock or today’s jazz/cheese. Grover Washington’s Mister Magic was the vinyl choice for jazz fans and Wynton Marsalis was playing in the high school marching band. You must understand the musical landscape these musicians are mining (with all original material!), Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew opened the door to almost all-electric jazz lineups. Like rock bands of the day, form dominated over substance, three chords and a groove got you a record contract. Dexter Gordon didn’t stand a chance and remained in his Swedish exile. Talent either hid or made some of the worst albums of all time, like Freddie Hubbard’s Liquid Love and Stanley Turrentine’s Always Something There. How they allowed producers to record covers of The Beatles and pop tunes I’ll never know. But Grover Washington, Jr. was different and that is why he was so very successful. He could combine electric keyboards and funk bass without sacrificing his sound.

That’s why you got to dig Porterhouse Quintet’s groove. They parody the music of Washington’s era without becoming cartoons. The disc opens with “Thumbs Up Little Buddy” all Herbie Hancock electric keyboards and funk baseline followed by a Tower of Power horn section doing the Oakland stroke. I got hooked then swallowed by the handclaps. Not the special effects, computer generated kind, but real skin on skin. Keyboardist Joey Porter lays a rhythm heavy line James Brown would kill (at least commit domestic violence) for. We are in South Philly or Oakland. Porter jumps to the Hammond B-3, grease is applied, as saxophonist Josh Cliburne resurrects not only Washington but also Cannonball Adderley and Gene Ammons. Give it up to the wah-wah trumpet, the slow burn dance tune, the voice-box “Juicy,” and plenty of percussion riffs that eschew the straight rock beats.

The last track “Neopolitan” hints at a bit of drum ‘n’ bass, after-hours groove and noisy destruction. Hmm, what can we expect next from our heroes? Naked City meets exotica I suspect. www.porterhousefunk.com.

Track List:Thumbs Up Little Buddy; Blanket Party; Marination; Juicy; One Of Those Moods; Steak Sauce Part 1 (Bring On The Sauce); Temporary Insanity; Charlotte Russe; Neopolitan.

Personnel: Josh Cliburne

Record Label: Porterhouse

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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