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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Pee Wee Ellis

Tenoration: from jazz to funk and back

Review by Gary Hill

As the sub-title of this album (and the separate disc titles) suggest, this album works in a jazz motif that at times (on the first CD) is quite funky. This is more old school jazz than anything else, and not fusion at all. It’s also incredibly strong and quite listenable. There’s a lot of variety from track to track and all musicians here really put in great performances. There’s some amazing soloing, but the song is what drives everything home. All in all, this is a killer set of jazz that should please all fans of the genre.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1: From Jazz to Funk…
Slanky P

This jazzy jam features some killer saxophone soloing, but it’s also got an incredibly tasty funk arrangement. It’s a great way to start things off in style. It’s kind of like Miles Davis goes funky with some serious soul thrown into the mix. There is some tasty guitar playing later in the cut.

Gittin' a Little Hipper
There’s definitely a James Brown vibe on this, but mixed with more pure jazz. This is another cut that’s quite tasty and it’s got a flavor that’s unique from the opener, but yet not too far removed.
Bon Bonn
There’s less funk here, and this killer jazz jam is extremely tasty. It has some concepts that feel similar to groups like Spyro Gyra. There’s some especially tasty guitar work to be found on this tune.
Sticks
In some ways this smoking hot jazz jam doesn’t differ greatly from the tunes that came before. It’s killer funky jazz that’s got a lot of energy and power. It’s a longer tune, at over ten-minutes in length. This gains a lot of power and strength as it continues are truly rocks out. It’s a real powerhouse.
Zig Zag See
A slower tune, this still has enough energy to make it work. The funk hasn’t been completely vanquished here, but it is reduced a bit. The saxophone soloing is particularly inspired and this has a great groove to it. There’s a great keyboard solo on this. I’d actually consider this one of the strongest tunes on show here.
At Last
A ballad, this has a slow and very tasty groove at its core. It’s a great change of pace. It’s also one of the cooler songs on the first disc of the set.
Disc 2: …And Back to Jazz
You've Changed
Mellow and contemplative, this is slow, sultry and extremely tasty jazz. As the title of this second CD indicates, while much of the first disc included serious amounts of funk, this ballad has none.
Sticks
A rocking sort of arrangement creates the backdrop for some frantic soloing here. This is killer high energy jazz without the funk heard on a lot of the earlier music. It’s a real screamer and one of the strongest cuts of the set.  The instrumental interplay here is among the best of the whole set. In particular a passage where the piano and bass jam is incredible.
Parlayin'
The walking bass pattern on this is classic and the whole tune really exudes an old school jazz vibe. This is another side of the group and a lot of fun. They take it out into a more freeform jam later that really smokes.
Sonnymoon For Two
Here’s another killer jazz jam. There’s plenty of energy and power here as this explores a lot of musical themes. It’s a real powerhouse of a tune with some tasty soloing. In fact, this extended number provides plenty of opportunities for each member of the group to get some soloing time throughout and some of the solos here are among the best of the whole album.
Now Go On
More of a straight ahead and light hearted jazz romp, there are some fun instrumental passages on this number. It’s got some great soloing, too, but it’s more of a fun groove compared to the intensity of the previous track. Still, it does work out into some inspired soloing and the piano, in particular, takes it in some cool and unexpected directions.
Freedom Jazz Dance
As the title suggests, this is more of a freeform jazz jam. At points it calls to mind something Frank Zappa might have done. It’s rather crazed and features some stellar instrumental work.
 
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