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Candy Dulfer Band in New Jersey

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The musicians appeared to be having too much fun themselves to notice that the audience was equally hooked, swept up in the sonic flow created by the band.
Candy Dulfer and Band
Shrine Auditorium
West Collingswood, New Jersey
October 13, 2007

The intimate art deco theater helped launch many conversations among the attendees until the band started a funky rhythm, which grew stronger, with chants of "Candy emanating from the stage, and then the featured artist entering from the back of the auditorium, walking up some steps and down a ramp leading to the stage, all the while blowing into her alto saxophone. The band meanwhile had been playing the first track from Dulfer's new CD, Candy Store (Heads Up, 2007), a piece simply entitled "Candy." The bass put out an enticing, even palpable rhythm, causing listeners to move in time with it. A woman seated next to me said she had come because she heard Candy Dulfer played "smooth jazz." Whatever the music is called, the rhythm was extremely funky in this band's hands.

Dulfer's presence is kinetic and electrifying. She was all over the Shrine Auditorium stage, and when not playing screaming sax, she clapped, called to the crowd, sang, always communicating in colorful ways. After finishing the instrumental "LA City Lights", also from the new CD; Dulfer announces the next tune, named for a singer and friend with whom she had collaborated, with a "tasteful" description of the posterior portion of her anatomy and how she can move it. The visual metaphor definitely was not lost throughout "Omara's Dance." The band then segued into a hip new version of "Finsbury Park, Café 67 from her previous CD, Right In My Soul (Eagle Records, 2003).
Deserving almost equal attention were the contributions of the band members. Bassist Rhonda Smith and drummer Kirk Johnson both have had extensive associations with Prince, so their time-keeping was effortless. Long-time Dulfer band members Ulco Bed on guitar, and Thomas Bank on keyboards, with vocalist Chance Howard completed the ensemble, assuring one of the tightest units in the funk/jazz/soul genre today. The musicians appeared to be having too much fun themselves to notice that the audience was equally hooked, swept up in the sonic flow created by the band. A Smith solo later in the show proved as impressive as it was mesmerizing, the sounds and rhythm ingeniously constructed. At least this reviewer has never heard a bass sound like that live—unusual effects with what looked like one pedal. Another highlight was the intensity displayed during a soulful interplay between Dulfer and Bed after one of the latter's flaming guitar solos.
The bands encore started with James Brown's "I Got Ants In My Pants," while the crowd remained on their feet, doing exactly as told. My wife and I were in the aisle at this point, but the artist wasn't finished, next performing "Pick Up the Pieces, written by the Average White Band. The tune, as played by Dulfer, is fresh and exciting, as she draws new life from this classic with each performance, a kind of study in the evolution of an improvisation upon a song. The encore ended in near-spectacular fashion, with the saxophonist moving up the chromatic scale in a riffing, call-response exchange with the drums, then all too soon for this audience, reaching closure.

On this evening Dulfer played her instrument with an originality going beyond what's come to be known as "smooth jazz," although she seems to be bridging the gap between swing and funk/R&B. Maybe that's the reason her record is climbing the charts while sales of other discs supposedly in the same genre are dwindling. She simply brings an expressive blend of the "sassy, breathy, powerful and mellow" to her alto sax sound—as well as her vocals. To Dulfer and her fans (including this one) it's not disrespectful to assert, simply, that "this girl got funk" and, moreover, has finessed it to a point that makes the sound uniquely hers.

After the concert, Dulfer came into the lobby to sign autographs and offer her new album. With undeniable humility, she proceeded to talk with each and every admirer waiting in the long line with no rush. She even spent a few minutes chatting with a young girl just starting out on the alto sax. Consummate class, gracious and composed—even after the extremely energetic performance she had just given. One can only hope it's not very long before she and her band are in the States again.

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