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RJ Spangler Trio: This Is What We Do

Steve Bryant By

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Detroit has always been a home for a multitude of jazz traditions. From big band to swing, from hard bop to the avant-garde, any jazz style can be heard in a given week. The city has especially embraced the organ trio, that staple of neighborhood joints found throughout the urban landscape. Veteran drummer and bandleader RJ Spangler has made that ubiquitous instrument his bread and butter for quite a while. Spangler (who, incidentally, is the nephew of the legendary San Francisco DJ Bud Spangler) has been a fixture on the Detroit music scene for over 30 years, and has been affiliated with some notable Detroit acts. Spangler co-founded the legendary R&B/jazz ensemble the Sun Messengers and has toured and recorded with blues greats Johnnie Bassett, Joe Weaver and Alberta Adams. He even hired a very young James Carter for some of the saxophonist's first gigs. Spangler's most interesting Endeavor, however may be his Planet D Nonet, which may be the only Sun Ra tribute band in the country.

Spangler's bread and butter is his organ trio, which is featured on the superb EP, This Is What We Do. What gives this hit some attraction is its getting some solid radio airplay throughout the Midwest and the prior buzz is well-deserved. Spangler's been with his cats for many years, making this a very tight set. The date is all standards except for one each by the Neil Creque and Big John Patton. Stylistically, Spangler' s crew prefers the breezy melodicism of guitarist Grant Greens Blue Note sessions over Jimmy Smith's gutbucket funk.

The trio starts off with a casual rendition of "Don't Blame Me," featuring some great interplay between organist Duncan Mcmillan and guitarist Ralph Tope. A relaxed "Girl Talk" is followed by some fired-up play on Creque's "Cease The Bombing," highlighting that the late keyboardist's work is really overlooked. After a languid "Idle Moments," the group shifts into high gear on "All Or Nothing At All," and blasts to the finish line with a John Patton burner "Funky Mama." McMillan and Tope really tear up on this piece, showing their Motown funk credentials prodigiously.

There is not a lot of flash, but it is solid blue-collar funk. Spangler and company show that the Motor City can hang with Philly when it comes to the B-3 genre.

Track Listing: Don’t Blame Me; Girl Talk; Cease The Bombing; Idle Moments; All Or Nothing At All; Funky Mama.

Personnel: Duncan McMillan: organ; Ralph Tope: guitar; R. J. Spangler: drums; Akunda Hollis; congas (3).

Title: This Is What We Do | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Eastlawn Records


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