Phil Upchurch is no stranger. He’s been around a long time, playing sessions with everyone from Jimmy Reed to Cannonball Adderly to Sheena Easton. And he was the rhythm guitarist for George Benson’s great pop/jazz albums like Breezin’ and In Flight. Here Phil gets to work (for what he says is the first time) with his own band, and the session cooks. The feel here is after-hours jazz for the most part. Mix in some great Latin things and you’ve got 13 cuts of magic.
“Jive Samba” mixes killer jazz, blues, and Latin single-line work with a percussive rhythm for a nice start. You’ll even catch an “Eleanor Rigby” quote if you listen close.
There are some other cool covers, too. He and pianist David Arnay eat up Steely Dan’s “Jack of Speed.” Upchurch showcases his chordal work along with imaginative single-line work. “La Costa” is an acoustic tour de force. “Manhatten” is a nod to Wes Montgomery. His ballad work shines on “Home Again” and a solo “Misty.” Throughout his career, Upchurch has been used on plenty of soul records, and a couple of covers here let him show that side. “Back In Love Again” is soul heaven. And down-home blues dominate an eight-minute version of “St. Louis Blues.”
It’s nice to hear a guy who you only hear playing rhythms get a chance like this. As a leader, Phil more than proves he’s an excellent soloist, songwriter (the bluesy title cut), and bandleader.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.