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Jack McDuff: Brotherly Love

AAJ Staff By

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Brotherly Love would have been one of those feel-good Jack McDuff albums that reunites some of his early collaborators and some of the musicians he helped train (dozens of them!)...were it not his last album.

Instead, Brotherly Love takes on a double meaning: a reference to the Philadelphians who join him on the album (Pat Martino and Joey DeFrancesco) and an acknowledgement of the fraternity (and, yes, sorority-or, well, camaraderie) of musicians who develop lifelong friendships and instinctive understandings of the music.

Working once again with Red Holloway, McDuff leads with his unmistakable style that combines the blues with a melodic approach not only to his solos, but also to his music. McDuff wrote six of the tunes on Brotherly Love, and they typically includes his signature titles that imply his unpretentious attitude about life. Titles like "Time's Marchin' On," (a slow down-home blues building to the inevitable climax before fadeout and spoken exclamation), "Kettle Of Fish," (a faster blues that serves as the occasion for inspiring solos from McDuff, Martino and Holloway), "Vas Dis" (a twisting jazz waltz somewhat akin to "Take Five") and McDuff's famous "Rock Candy."

"Rock Candy" has personal significance to Joey DeFrancesco, who joined McDuff on this tune in a live performance at the Concord Jazz Festival in 1996 after their duo It's About Time album was released. "Rock Candy" was the first tune that DeFrancesco performed with McDuff—at the age of ten. Playing "Rock Candy" note-for-note as a child just the way that McDuff recorded it, DeFrancesco remained friends with him for what became a lifetime.

Brotherly Love includes two tracks from that live performance, "Rock Candy" and "Pork Chops & Pasta," played by McDuff's touring band of Jerry Weldon, Andrew Beals, John Hart and Rudy Petschauer. The appearance at the jazz festival not only represents a full-circle performance of the tune, but also it's an thrilling performance unto itself when all of the musicians were at their peak. The enthusiastic applause at the end of the performance showed appreciation in person for the musicians' giving-it-their-all. That same applause which ends the recording shows appreciation for McDuff's lifelong success in entertaining thousands of listeners.

The more surprising selection on the CD is Chucho Valdes' "Santa Amalia," played by the studio group consisting of Holloway, Martino, bassist Frank Gravis and drummer Grady Tate. Even with the Latin tinge laid down by Tate and the festival licks implied by Holloway, McDuff converts the tune into something that would fit right into the organ circuit repertoire.

"April In Paris" and "Georgia" are the two other tunes on Brotherly Love that McDuff didn't write. With a nod to Count Basie's classic recording of "April In Paris," McDuff, in an orchestral fashion, fills in for the entire band before Holloway and Martino change the feel into that of an easy swing. That doesn't mean that McDuff leaves out the famous ending; he plays it as dramatically as would be expected. "Georgia" slows down into a languid retelling of the story, allowing for the musicians to fill in the rests with bluesiness and meaning.

A hard-driving leader who demanded musical integrity from the people who worked for him, Jack McDuff remained true to the spirit of the music, even as he disdained fast licks for logical solo development. Brotherly Love is yet more proof that he understood the power of music, as he worked to channel that power to his audiences.

Title: Brotherly Love | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Concord Music Group


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