For those familiar with the jazz scene in Toronto during the eighties and the next decade will remember the impact the Shuffle Demons had. Richard Underhill was the leader and founding member of the band that flipped jazz over not only through the initial impact of their colorful costumes, but also with their outstanding musicianship. The Shuffle Demons split in 1997 and Underhill went out on his own and recorded his debut album in 2003, with a wealth of Canadian talent. It is well worth revisiting.
Tales from the Blue
Underhill uses several idioms in his music. He does not miss out on the connect as he gets deep down into the groove and comes up with rhythms that sizzle. He drives the point home right away as "Surfing gets off on a funky edge shifted by George Koller on bass and Ted Warren on drums. Underhill takes his alto into the curl and loop, his lines taut yet delving to capture the nuance of the melody. He breaks away to prod and probe letting Bob Brough to bring his big sound on the tenor and parlay a path that etches some deep lines. A great balance, indeed! Underhill utilizes an octet to give voice to "Big. This is a big (!), brawny production, the sound initially driven by Dave Restivo on organ before Jake Langley illumines the path on the guitar, countenanced by the horns in particular Underhill as he burrows a red hot trail. The title cut has a big band, 11 musicians gathering for a rumba which glides into sensuality on the horns. But Underhill is not content to rest on one aspect. He shifts time and tempo to give the song a broader scope, and in that a stronger impact. There's more in the way of marvelous tunes that make this a wonderfully diverse and appealing album.
Visit Richard Underhill on the web.
The Shuffle Demons
The Shuffle Demons recorded four albums and their Greatest Hits compiles a generous 17 tracks which show why this band was one of the most exciting in Canada. Their music took in many influences which they parleyed into expressions of their own concept. It was fun and it was exhilarating and it proved that these musicians were quite simply, top notch.
Appropriately enough, the first track here is a live one bringing in "The Shuffle Monster horns askew, the lines fillibrating and then some twisted improvisations and cries from the saxophones particularly the baritone. There is never a moment when the trajectory does not go askance, but then that was their cue card, the unusual in the usual circumstances. A little honking on the horn and it's time to serve up some rhythm'n'blues on "The Funkin' Pumpkin' with some hot blowing from Underhill on the alto. They played the blues as well and they shaded it pretty darn well too. Their "Personal Blues is a slow one and the words must be heard for the jive. There are other songs that tell stories and if, anything, show that the Demons had an ear to the wall (or perhaps to the ground) and the tongue tucked nicely in the cheek. And if you want to sing along to a country tune try getting on to "Yukon Girl and you're sure to have a load of fun. And finally for something quite serious, slip into "Gabi's Gimi Suit, one of the best Demons tunes. This is infectious, not in the sense that it has a melody that yells grab me but in the complexity of its nature. The interplay between the band members is empathetic and resounds with an eloquent power.
The story of the Shuffle Demons is worth listening to over, and over again.
Visit The Shuffle Demons on the web.
Tales from the Blue:
Track Listing: Surfing; Mr. Fezzwig; Big; Blues for Suze; The Blue Lounge; The Old Guys; Dreamy Afternoon; Guru Ship; Pegasus; Chillin'
Personnel: Richard Underhillalto and baritone saxophones; Bob Broughtenor saxophone; Dave Restivopiano and organ; George Kollerbass; Ted warrendrums; Jake Langleyguitar and others
Track Listing: The Shuffle Monster; Spadina Bus; Gabi's Gimi Suit; Out of My House, Roach; Hockey Night in Canada Theme; East Berlin Angst; Pavin' My Road; Perry's Groove; 12 Beer My Dear; Cheese on Bread; The Funkin' Pumpkin; Personal Blues; Yukon Girl; Stop the Rot; Blues for You; Shuffle Groove; What do You Want?
Personnel: Rich Underhillalto and baritone saxophones, vox; Mike Murleytenor, baritone, soprano and alto saxophones, vox; Dave Parkertenor sax, fiddle, vox; Jim Vivianbass, vox; Stich Wynstondrums, percussion, gong, goat nails, vox; Perry Whitetenor and baritone saxophones, vox; George Kollerbass, vox