Jazz CD Reviews
Swingadelic – The Other Duke – Tribute to Duke Pearson – Zoho
Published on June 13, 2011
Swingadelic – The Other Duke – Tribute to Duke Pearson – Zoho 201107, 47:00 [Distr. by Allegro] ****½:
(Audrey Welber, alto sax; Paul Carlon, tenor sax and flute; Jeff Hackworth, baritone sax; Albert Leusink, trumpet; Carlos Francis, trumpet; Rob Susman, trombone; Rob Edwards, trombone; Boo Reiners, guitar; John Bauers, piano; Dave Post, bass; Paul Pizzuti, drums)
Though they have four other CD releases in the last decade, I was largely unaware of the New Jersey based mid-sized jazz band Swingadelic. I stood up and took notice however, when I saw that their new CD on Zoho was a tribute to Duke Pearson – the under-recognized pianist, composer, arranger, and A&R front man for Blue Note Records during their peak of popularity in the 1960s. Duke did it all for Blue Note, recording many albums, both big band and small group, down to trio size. Besides his work as a front man for Blue Note, Pearson was first featured in both Donald Byrd’s band and with the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Sextet. He was later also Nancy Wilson’s accompanist. During both his tenure with Blue Note and after, he also led a big band in New York that featured legends like Pepper Adams, Chick Corea, Lew Tabackin and Randy Brecker. This big band played many weekly gigs in New York City, around the recording sessions of its members.
Duke suffered through multiple sclerosis in the late 1970s and died near age 48 in 1980.
Pearson was also known as a prolific composer and many of his most famous compositions – “Cristo Redentor,” “Jeannine,” “Big Bertha,” and “Sweet Honey Bee” are featured on the Swingadelic tribute to Mr. Pearson. Pearson’s tunes were noted for their swing, melodies, and hooks that made them memorable enough that quite a few other noted jazz artists have recorded his compositions. Swingadelic also has included three other tracks that have the Pearson flavor.
“Mississippi Dip” opens the tribute. Its boogaloo vibe was featured on Duke’s big band LP, Introducing the Duke Pearson Big Band. Duke was among the first to merge rock, and Latin themes along with mainstream and hard bop rhythms. On “Mississippi Dip” Pearson introduces a theme which opens the track and then re-appears throughout the tune. It has a groove that you can really lock onto. Here Swingadelic concentrates on a trombone- driven rhythm as well as the slide guitar of Boo Reiners. John Bauers, on piano, has the Pearson piano fills done well.
“Chili Peppers” is from Pearson’s The Right Touch album of 1967. The band’s horns are powerful and the Latin rhythms are catchy. Swingadelic’s reed section shines as does guitarist Reiners again. “Cristo Redentor” follows and this tune was among Pearson’s most memorable – it was featured for sextet and choir on Duke’s A New Perspective. It became one of Duke’s biggest hits. Swingadelic’s trumpets shine here. Once you hear this track, you will be hooked, as it is sublime and serves as an effective anthem.
“Jeannine” was arguably Pearson’s most iconic standard. It has been done on albums by Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery and Gene Harris among others. It’s theme is instantly recognizable. Oscar Brown, Jr. put lyrics to this song and All Music Guide shows “Jeannine” has been recorded over 125 times. Trombones are featured here and the tight ensemble blend of the group is exemplary.
“Sweet Honey Bee,” also a Pearson fixture, has Paul Carlon’s flute as well as another infectious theme. It is easy to see why Pearson was such a valuable A&R man for Blue Note as his talent for both writing and recognizing talent that could sell well is quite evident.
“Duke’s Mixture” is a blues-based swinger that Donald Byrd recorded in 1961 on The Cat Walk. Swingadelic’s version confirms their band’s name is appropriate. Jeff Hackworth on bari blows several hot choruses and his tone brings to mind Pepper Adams. “Sudel” from both Pearson’s Sweet Honey Bee album, as well as on Donald Byrd’s Groovin’ for Nat, shows the group’s ensemble playing doing Duke proud. Again the two trombones are featured.
“Ready Rudy” was written for Rudy Van Gelder, Blue Note’s iconic engineer, with whom Pearson must have had a symbiotic relationship. The trumpet solo here shines. “New Time Shuffle” closes out this disc. It was produced and arranged by Duke for Stanley Turrentine’s album of the same name. Duke also used it with his big band. It was written by Joe Sample, of the Jazz Crusaders, who knew a thing or two about soulful compositions.
I highly recommend Swingadelic’s CD for fans of Duke Pearson. It is a heartfelt tribute to a jazz master who has not received the acclaim that he was due.
TrackList: Mississippi Dip, Chili Peppers, Cristo Redentor, Jeannine, Big Bertha, Sweet Honey Bee, Duke’s Mixture, Sudel, Ready Rudy, New Time Shuffle
– Jeff Krow