A veteran of the venerable “Jazz Passengers” along with an extensive resume including numerous sideman dates with rising stars and proven jazz warriors, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes gets down to the groove with his first studio recording titled, Catfish Corner-Reflect. A soul-jazz brew, Fowlkes sparkles as a bandleader, composer and soloist along with his equally adept and zealous supporting cast.
Drummer J.T. Lewis, an integral member of Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus (will someone please sign this man to a recording contract!) and one third of the excellent hard rock/jazz trio, “Harriet Tubman”, is a perfect fit here. On “Treasure Chest”, Lewis initiates a downright nasty, hell raising Latin-funk beat utilizing the bells of his ride cymbal, rimshots and just about anything else he can whack, as he steers the groovin’ rhythms into submission. Here and throughout we get a taste of the 70’s, enhanced by Ted Cruz’ delightful sounding Fender Rhodes piano which rekindles memories of year’s past. The deep, corpulent sound of Fowlkes’ trombone leads the mini horn section into bluesy motifs intermingled with noticeable doses of mid-tempo jazz featuring hearty soloing from the ensemble. The ensemble attains a little – “big band sound” on “What Was..Is” as Fowlkes’ profound phrasing and commanding tone packs a mighty punch and with Cruz’ funky Hammond B-3 organ, take us along the Mississippi Delta or perhaps to a blues hall in Memphis. “Blue Teardrops Falling” is pure R&B induced funk, complete with that delightful if not cheesy 70’s style wah-wah electric keyboard sound which assists in producing the optimal or desired effect. Fowlkes displays passion and soul on the melodic, “Ashe” featuring tranquil choruses from the horn section along with sonorously pleasing solos by alto saxophonist Sam Furnace and trumpeter Russ Johnson. “Sacred Monsters” contains a memorable, upbeat horn arrangement while guitarist Duncan Cleary churns out pleasantly indecent fuzz-distortion electric guitar work on “Walker Snead”. The last track, “Reflect” is an affable yet easily forgettable rap-spoken word composition yet the Motown style horn chart deserves high marks....
Although, Fowlkes and company offer nothing startlingly new, the music is cool, sleek, boisterous and happening! The band is tight and the compositions are strong – which adds up to a very pleasant and enjoyable listening experience and a nice contrast to all of the complexities found in every day life.
Curtis Fowlkes; Trombone: Sam Furnace; Alto Sax: Russ Johnson; Trumpet: Ted Cruz; Keyboards: Carlos Henderson; Bass: Duncan Cleary; Guitar (tracks 6 & 9): Sheila Provost; Vocal, Spoken Word.