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Candy Dulfer: Funked Up!

Jeff Winbush By

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Let's get something straight. Candy Dulfer is not a jazz saxophonist. Candy Dulfer is a funk saxophonist who can play jazz, but her preference is playing funk.

If you're going to call your new album Funked Up!, you had better bring the funk loud, proud and strong. No worries here. The Dutch-born saxophonist delivers 11 tracks of pure funk on wax (or highly polished plastic, to be exact).

From the incandescent lead-off "First In Line," and through the next five tracks, Dulfer makes it clear she's not messing around. Pure funk bands have disappeared from American radio airwaves, and are pretty much confined to reunion tours in small clubs. Dulfer pays homage to Parliament-Funkadelic, James Brown and Rick James without sounding like a pale imitation of any of them, which is a pretty neat trick.

"My Funk" sets it off with Dulfer's sax squeaking and honking—over, under, sideways and down Pete Philly's rapping. "Still I Love You" has a hot Latin tinge provided by Frank Stukker's inspired guitar work. "Step Up" struts like a rooster first thing in the morning, as vocalist Leona throws in some reggae-inspired rhymes. "Don't Go" is more conventional smooth jazz, but rises above the standard fare propelled by Dulfer's soaring sax.

On "Bliss 2 This," guest Joseph Bowie alternates between rapping and talking, which may please some and annoy others. It's a slight distraction from Dulfer's powerful alto sax playing, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Funked Up! boasts an eclectic group of American and European talent such as drummer Kirk Johnson and bassist/keyboard player Chance Howard—both of whom, along with Dulfer, have played with Prince. Producer and keyboardist Thomas Bank and guitarist Ulco Bed have worked with Dulfer for years, and ably assist in making sure the grooves never turn into a rut.

The Candy Dulfer catalog is scattered across 12 albums and half a dozen labels, but with Funked Up!, she sounds more confident and focused here than 2007's slightly scattered Candy Shop (Heads Up), which came following a four-year hiatus from recording.

Dulfer knuckles down and zeroes in on creating some fast, furious and always funky beats that are big enough to live in. The result is proof positive that some of the best funk n' soul is being imported from Europe to America, where once upon a time it was the other way around.

Track Listing: First in Line; My Funk; Still I Love You; Step Up; Don't Go; CD 101.9; Bliss 2 This; Finger Poppin'; Be Cool; On & On; True & Tender; Roppongi Panic.

Personnel: Candy Dulfer: alto saxophone, vocals, horn arrangements; Chance Howard: bass, keyboards, programming, vocals; Kirk A. Johnson: drums, shaker; Thomas Bank: keyboards, programming; Frank Stukker: guitar; Leona: vocals (4, 11); Pete Philly: rap, vocals (2); Russ Davis: recorded voice (6); Ulco Bed: guitar (7); Joseph Bowie: rap (7); Manuel Hugas: bass (11); Jan Van Duikeren: trumpet; Louk Boudesteijn: trombone; Guido Nijs: tenor saxophone (Special Request Horns) (7).

Title: Funked Up! | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Heads Up International

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