181

JJ Grey and Mofro: Brighter Days

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
JJ Grey and Mofro: Brighter Days Anyone who's seen JJ Grey and Mofro since 2008 knows how the sparks that fly from their studio recordings catch fire when the band plays live. The audio component of Brighter Days, a combination CD and DVD set, proceeds almost breathlessly as the successive cuts appear at an ardent pace.

Recorded in a single night early in 2011, the performance contains three extra numbers on video, but the sequencing of the audio, like the band's last release, Georgia Warhorse (Alligator, 2010), has a logic all its own that renders it a complete document on its own terms. By the time Grey's ode to desire, "On Fire," is finished, there's no sense of anything being left out.

The set list spans the history of Mofro, which began life as a quirky little unit immersed in the swampy funk of their southern roots through tunes like "Country Ghetto" and "War." Now adorned with horns and fleshed out with keyboards as well as guitars and a rhythm section—drummer Anthony Cole and bassist Todd Smallie (late of The Derek Trucks Band)—this larger unit seethes the same deeply felt soul Grey radiates as a singer and songwriter. The sextet has morphed into a full-fledged soul band.

"Orange Blossoms" marks the point of departure for Grey as bona fide front man for the band. This ode to his Florida roots, set in a geographical context far removed from the provincial character depictions of "Dirtfloorcracker," represents the elevation of Mofro's momentum on stage at The Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Obviously a student of the R&B genre, Grey's fevered personalization of the style distinguishes him from the mere academic admirer or dilettante poser.

The intensity builds over the course of the dozen cuts as J.J. Grey and Mofro contain themselves carefully during the early part of their set in disciplined arrangements like that of "A Woman." Yet even later on, when the ensemble stretches out for "The Sweetest Thing" and "The Sun Is Shining Down," there's a restraint to the playing and singing that precludes self-indulgence. Ultimately, the tighter the band plays, the harder is their impact.

During the spoken word intervals and the occasional warble of harmonica as appears on "Lochloosa," it's clear the band's grasp of dynamics begins with JJ Grey himself. He sounds like a wholly different man than when Mofro first began: the power of his deep voice is just raw enough to remain heartfelt as it ignites the musicians around him to play with a force that matches his own.

The cumulative power of this performance thus turns the brief electric piano interlude from keyboardist Anthony Farrell into a welcome respite of cool from the scaling solo offered by saxophonist Art Edmiston that follows soon after. And the depth to which JJ Grey and Mofro believe in the music they make approaches a religious fervor: Brighter Days, the work of a group spectacularly confident of itself, thus becomes a testament to the transformative power of music.


Track Listing: Country Ghetto; A Woman; Brighter Days; Air; War; Lochloosa; Dirtfloorcracker; Orange Blossoms; Ho Cake; The Sweetest Thing; The Sun is Shining Down; On Fire.

Personnel: JJ Grey: lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica; Andrew Trube: lap steel, electric guitar; Anthony Farrell: organ, piano; Art Edmaiston: saxophone; Dennis Marion; trumpet; Todd Smallie: bass; Anthony Cole: drums.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Alligator Records


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Binary" CD/LP/Track Review Binary
by John Sharpe
Published: January 21, 2017
Read "Forest Grove" CD/LP/Track Review Forest Grove
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 26, 2016
Read "Celebrating Elvin Jones" CD/LP/Track Review Celebrating Elvin Jones
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 11, 2016
Read "Double Septet" CD/LP/Track Review Double Septet
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "Circles and Landscapes" CD/LP/Track Review Circles and Landscapes
by John Eyles
Published: March 16, 2016
Read "Anthology - Bigger Than Life" CD/LP/Track Review Anthology - Bigger Than Life
by Doug Collette
Published: December 24, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!