Alto man Hank Crawford and organist Jimmy McGriff are made for each other. Mixing the right brew of blues, swing and funk, they compliment one another's soulful sound in distinctive style. Road Tested, the seventh pairing under both their names, is exactly what you'd expect from these two: the tried and trues of funk and blues. What gives it an edge, though, is Crawford and McGriff riffing in the excellent company of Wayne Boyd on guitar and funkmaster Bernard Purdie on sticks. It takes you to a smoky club of long ago, when this kind of group could be heard by the dozens in any major city.
Road Tested opens and closes with two winners: Boyd's funky "Peanuts" (a carbon copy of "McGriffin" from McGriff's The Dream Team ) and the 24-bar blues of Crawford & McGriff's jam, "A Little Bit South of East St. Louis" (featuring Boyd's terrific Melvin Sparks-like solo). In between, it's a little more predictable. "Happy Feet" (credited to Crawford alone) reheats the overly-familiar "Night Train" theme, while "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon" and the sappy "For Sentimental Reasons" offer the requisite R&B covers. "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Summertime" serve up the corn in ways that Crawford and McGriff have perfected over the years. But their surprising, soulful redux of John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C" is redeeming and worthwhile.
No Crawford / McGriff album is perfect (although I'd put money on their LRC work from the late 1970s, which was the disco music McGriff claims in this disc's liner notes he "just didn't feel"). But Road Tested offers some reliably soulful sounds and gotcha-groove for both fatback fans and acid-jazzers.
Peanuts; I Only Have Eyes For You; Happy Feet; For Sentimental Reasons; Caravan; Road Tested; Hope That We Can Be Together Soon; Mr. P.C.; Summertime; A Little Bit South Of East St. Louis.
Players:Hank Crawford: alto sax; Jimmy McGriff: Hammond X-B3 organ; Wayne Boyd: guitar; Bernard Purdie: drums.