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Don Byron: Doing The Boomerang at Philadelphia's Painted Bride

Edward Zucker By

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Don Byron
Painted Bride Art Center
Philadelphia, PA
February 3, 2007

Don Byron's release Do The Boomerang: The Music Of Junior Walker became a darling of the critics and made the best-of lists for 2006. The disc, a danceable, funk and R&B-filled party record, was Byron's homage to one of his favorite musicians, Junior Walker.

Byron and his band once again did right by Walker at the Painted Bride on this Saturday night. In the first set the band stuck to tunes from the CD, giving the audience what they came to hear and taking them back to a time when R&B and Walker's growling sax ruled the Motown (and on occasion pop) charts.

Byron took to the stage wearing a University of Texas baseball cap (an ode to Texas tenors?) and, with tenor sax in hand, started things off with some funky R&B on "Satan's Blues. Guitarist David Gilmore immediately jumped into the fray and matched Byron lick for filthy lick. Byron remained on tenor instead of his customary clarinet for all but one tune, proving he could hold his own on the larger horn.

Introducing the James Brown song "There It Is, Byron said, "It was shame that James Brown died the same week as Jerry Ford since James Brown was more important than Jerry Ford. Byron added, "James Brown is our Stravinsky. With that lead-in, the band roared into an electrifying version of the song.

Bowman belted out the lyrics, employing Joe Cocker mannerisms with his best J. B. voicing to channel the Godfather of Soul. The backings provided by Calhoun and Gilmore, whose propulsive, funk-infused playing would have made J. B. smile, pushed Bowman as if a night train were bearing down on him.

Later in the set drummer Will Calhoun's driving polyrhythmic solo on "Pucker Up Buttercup had Bowman dancing in such frenzy that Byron had to motion him back to center stage to resume singing.

With the set drawing to a close, Byron announced that he found it "really distracting that the audience was not dancing to the music. The audience complied as they moved into the aisles and the front of the stage, dancing throughout the encore of "Shotgun, which featured some killer runs on organ by Philadelphia native Kyle Koehler.

Junior Walker would have been proud, and reassured. Don Byron proved that his legacy is safe.

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