Okay, it’s not like Rodney Jones doesn’t have the pedigree. He spent lots of time on the road with Maceo Parker, so it’s not like funk would be foreign to him. But on his previous solo work, the funk/soul element was there, but not strong – certainly not strong enough to prepare the listener for the blistering, white-hot groove of this album. It’s like Grant Green and James Brown had an accident at the corner of funk and soul. And through it all, Rodney navigates the twists and turns of every song with imagination and feeling.
The CD’s first cut, “Groove Bone, Part 1” sets the tone. The band sets up a (as you might infer from the title) killer groove allowing everyone to solo heartily. Rodney starts with short, crisp octave blasts that give way to single lines and double-stops that show off his chops and soul.
Oh yeah… did I mention the band? We’ve got Maceo Parker and Arthur Blythe on alto saxes, Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, and the marvelous Idris Muhammad on drums. Muhammad has fueled some of my favorite jazz guitar albums in recent years, and this one’s no different. Anyway, this is a wonderful all-star group that plays incredibly well together.
The overwhelming feel here is hard funk, but some other things slide through, too. “One Turnip Green” sounds like an organ trio swinging through the night. Jones, as expected, flies high on this one. There’s a really nice version of the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” that features a gorgeous tone and nasty solo by Jones. Same for “Soul Eyes,” which is ballad work of this nature at its best. And “Soup Bone” is pretty much a jazz-tinged blues shuffle that makes you stand up and yell “Ow.”
But the main emphasis here is funk. And it’s done in classic J.B. style. That’s not to say it’s clichéd or boring, because it’s not. In fact, Jones soloing is imaginative and takes lots of turns and corners you don’t expect. It would be real easy for a lot of players to fall into standard licks and phrases playing this kind of stuff. But that doesn’t happen.
This one’s highly recommended. Along with John Scofield’s work over the past 10 years or so, this is at the top of my list for jazz guitar albums. If you like funk, jazz, guitar, or anything in between, pick this up.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.