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Benjamin Koppel: The Ultimate Soul & Jazz Revue

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Benjamin Koppel: The Ultimate Soul & Jazz Revue
Listen to music long enough, and it's almost bound to happen: You're not sure exactly what you want to listen to, but you know that whatever you listen to needs must bump and groove. The Ultimate Soul & Jazz Revue, an anthology of American jazz, soul and R&B recorded live at a Copenhagen music festival by Danish saxophonist Benjamin Koppel and his big band, is some first-rate scratch for that itch.

Ultimate Soul & Jazz neatly packages Koppel's background, influences, experiences and vision across two CDs, which feature him romping with top Danish musicians through a program of soul-jazz classics including "Manteca," "Groove Me," "Them Changes" and even "Close to You" alongside legendary American jazzmen Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Bernard Purdie (drums). "A great part of the record collection in my childhood was American gospel music and soul music, which is what I listened to the most when I was a kid, besides the Beatles," Koppel recalls. "Soul music in various forms is a great part of my musical DNA and something I always return to."

Although he was a saxophonist by age 13 and released his debut as a leader at age 18, Koppel wanted to be a drummer first—inspired by Bernard Purdie. Koppel and Brecker go back decades. "I love to play with Randy," says Koppel. "The first time we shared a mic was on a session with a Danish pianist, which I co-produced in New York in 1999." Brecker and Purdie share their own history: "I hadn't played with Bernard in years," Brecker recalls. "He was on my first record, Score, back in 1969, and back in the day we did a million sessions together."

Koppel and his crew count off and then rip into "Them Changes" to begin the show. Koppel's sax and Brecker's trumpet harmonize across but don't overpower the groove, which allows it time and space to breathe. Koppel's solo fires the first of many salvos from his King Curtis holster, soulful and sharp, while Brecker spacewalks between jazz and funk and keeps moving forward by doubling down back into the rhythm. The rhythm section (especially keyboardist Jacob Christoffersen, Hammond organist Dan Hemmer and percussionist Jacob Andersen) keeps this grooving, with Hemmer spreading out greasy chords like smooth butter behind the saxophone's crunchier solo, and Brecker's trumpet blowing the melody out like a birthday candle to close.

This introduction to King Floyd's classic "Groove Me" could be an instructional big band funk primer: Bassist Scott Colley stretches out a rubbery unaccompanied line, then snaps it back into the shape of the original bass line while Purdie quietly but steadily sets up shop behind him. As the arrangement stirs in rhythm guitar and Hammond organ, Purdie shifts his simmer from low to high, the horns set the melody free like an unleashed kite, and away we go! "Groove Me" rounds into a series of solos and proves to be a great if not one of the perfect tunes for this group of musicians—jazz vets who cut their teeth on rock, R&B and soul, kept in step by beats and whipcracks from the original and funkiest of all funky drummers.

Track Listing

Them Changes; Manteca; Hammond Street; Move On Up; Feel the Bern; Respect; Con Alma and Sax; Groove Me; Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing; Close To You; Sing a Simple Song.

Personnel

Benjamin Koppel: saxophone, alto; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Scott Colley: bass; Bernard Purdie: drums; Jacob Christoffersen: keyboards; Marie Carmen Koppel: voice / vocals; Jacob Andersen: percussion; Søren Heller: guitar; Dan Hemmer: organ, Hammond B3.

Album information

Title: The Ultimate Soul & Jazz Revue | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Unit Records

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