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Alvin "Red" Tyler and the Gyros: Simply Red

Ed Kopp By

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Simply Red is a terrific collection of instrumentals recorded by the late New Orleans saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler. This music was recorded for the Ace label when New Orleans R&B was at its zenith, and it's a real sleeper for fans of classic Crescent City music. Included are 11 cuts from the 1961 album Rockin' & Rollin', plus six alternate takes from those same sessions. Also included are the tunes "Walk On" and "Snake Eyes" from 1958.

A talented arranger and accomplished tenor and baritone saxman whose first love was bebop, "Red" Tyler played baritone sax on dozens of hit records by Fats Domino, Shirley and Lee, Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Dr. John and many others. As a session regular at Cosimo Matassa's legendary studio during the late '50s and early '60s, Tyler helped to shape New Orleans' inimitable R&B sound. He was also a member of Dr. John's superb road band during the 1990s. Tyler passed away in 1998 at age 72.

Any album that includes legendary keyboardists James Booker and Allen Toussaint is well worth tracking down, and both contributed significantly to Simply Red. Some of these cuts reveal the strong influence of Caribbean rhythms on New Orleans R&B, particularly the irresistible cover of "Peanut Vendor." "Drag Race" has a sort of "Peter Gunn" groove, while "Junk Village" is a mambo thing flavored by Booker's organ. "Lonely for You" is a smoky, late night blues tune highlighted by Tyler's tounge-twisting lines on tenor sax. With its cool, intertwining saxophones, "Tonking" almost sounds like a Blue Note jazz number.

Simply Red is a rollicking, fun release that stands alongside Lee Allen's Walkin' With Mr. Lee as a milestone of New Orleans instrumental R&B. It's a wonderful gift bequeathed to us by Alvin "Red" Tyler.


Title: Simply Red | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Ace/Westside


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