Bluiett's Barbeque Band
Heres a stomping Bluiett electric group thatll knock you on your butt. I cant possibly summarize this session, so Ill give you the recipe for Bluietts barbeque instead: a powerful from-the-church soul singer belting Wind Beneath My Wings and Precious Lord; a keyboard funkmeister borrowed from George Clinton; an 18 voice childrens choir; and an octave-defying bass sax transformation of Body and Soul. Mix in Bluiett originals that crisscross the lines between jazz, R&B, fusion and gospel. His group includes Calvin Jones on electric bass, Ronnie Burrage on drums, Donald Blackman on keyboard and Chief Bey on hand drums. This audiophilic spectacular is a Fi SuperDisc. (#04032)
Hey now, it's party time! Grab some ribs and some brew and get down with Bluiett's Barbecue Band! They do pop, soul, funk, jazz and more: Just your average avant-gutbucket backyard group.
And not only that, there's a group of kids to sing on a tune dedicated to Bluiett's granddaughter's nanny, poet Shirley LeFlore does her thing on Give Me Rivers, and Amba Hawthorne slides right in to sing a couple. The band is essentially a large and deeply funky rhythm section, with Bluiett's baritone as the only horn and main soloist. The audiophile Mapleshade production (custom A/D converters, minimum miking, no mixing, filtering, compression, etc.) lands the listener right in the middle of the ensemble, exactly where you want to be. The spirit is definitely here, from the pure gospel of Georgia Tom Dorsey's Precious Lord to the closing bass sax/electric piano duet (!) on Body And Soul. This one is big fun, and warmly recommended.
Bariman Bluiett blows his top and has big fun on this savory platter that employs electronic instruments without condescending to common tastes. Best known for his sonorous explorations with the World Saxophone Quartet, the New York-based baritone master ennobles the African American oral tradition here, using the organ as merely a point of departure. From the title, one expects an organ-drenched recording in the manner of Jimmy Smith. Instead, while employing some organ and other electric keyboards, Bluiett takes a decidedly R&B- and gospel-oriented approach. Donald Blackman's keyboards, bolstered by electric bass and both trap (Ronnie Burrage) and hand (Chief Bey) drums, fan the flames of the leader's fervent improvising, sometimes in the bari's customarily meaty low registers and, at others, in the instrument's uppermost realms. There's improvising aplenty and tasty grooves that leave no falsely cerebral aftertaste. As such, Bluiett's Barbeque Band retains an uncompromising crossover appeal. Slap on Oasis/The Well (8:16), Wide Open (5:59) or Body And Soul (7:05, an unusual but flavorful feature for bari) and be sure to lick all the sauce off your fingers.
January 27, 1997
Finesounds: FI's Critics Recommend Great-Sounding Discs
Pierre Sprey's Mapleshade Productions has emerged, in recent years, as one of the very few labels that offers consistently first-rate sonics and world-class musicians. The latest, Bluiett's Barbeque Band, his fifth collaboration with Hamiet Bluiett, best-known as the baritone sax in the World Saxophone Quartet, is one of both men's propulsive and unusual discs to date. The Barbeque Band is an electric outfit, with Bluiett backed by stacked-keyboards, electric bass and drums, supplemented occasionally by hand-drums, a poet, a singer, and, on one song, a "choir" of eighteen schoolkids. But read on, for it sounds like no fusion band you've ever heard. Instead of plugging the electric instruments straight into a mixing board, Sprey plugs them into amps -- the keyboards into a Fender, the bass into an Ampeg, both tube-powered and heavily modified -- and lets their sounds drift into the air, where his customary wedged pair of PZM microphones picks them up along with the rest of the room's molecules. You get a sense of spaciousness, depth and transparency that makes you feel you're listening to this band live, in some funky dive, where the food's hot and the crowd's hotter. The tunes range from samba-ballad to free-funk to gospel to a sweet country reverie that features those eighteen schoolchildren paying tribute to the departed nanny of Bluiett's granddaughter, and oh, lord!, wait till you hear them shouting and whispering, so lifelike and distinct, you can count - and practically see - every one of them.
The band sizzles. Bluiett covers his usual three or four octaves on baritone, all of them dripping with soul and sauciness. The final number finds him blowing Body And Soul on bass saxophone -- one of the few times that anyone has dared play that unwieldy horn in sustained melody. It's amazing enough when a musician pushes enough air through it; Bluiett puts his heart through it, as well. And Sprey lets you see how big and ornery the horn is. One flaw: on the three songs that feature singer Amba Hawthorne, she sometimes gets too close to the mike, triggering some overload. Otherwise, it's as real a disc as Sprey has ever set down. Warning: it begins with a very loud and nicely nasty honk.