Blues musicians playing jazz are a rarer phenomenon than the other way around. Three of the most respected have been Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl and Ron Levy, suggesting that the Roomful of Blues had at least a Jazz Corner.
Levy's primary influences include Jimmy Smith and Booker T, so I wondered if this would be a mixture of those two quite different styles, an organist's Alias Smith And Jones. Well, it's neither as jazzy as Smith nor as straightahead as Jones, but hits an area between them. Expect the sort of sound you might associate with the likes of Jimmy McGriff, Richard 'Groove' Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff or John Patton, and you won't be disappointed. The titles, like 'The Soulside', Green Eyed Soul', 'Soulard Soul Stew' suggest that it isn't a country and western album, and it's pretty much 63 minutes of instrumental organ-based funk, hitting hard enough on the rhythms to dance to but also musically intelligent enough to sit down and listen to.
Levy wrote all the tracks and they are clearly not just a result of the band going into the studio and agreeing to jam on various riffs for a few minutes each, as is sometimes the case on this sort of album. It is very much his show and he claims the lion's share of the soloing although guitarist Jeff Lockhart is also aboard. He provides solid support and is also credited with "effects", but please don't worry - there's nothing startlingly hi-tech here.
The other members of the quartet are Warren Grant on percussion and Yahuba Garcia on drums. What, you ask, are there no bassists in the Wild Kingdom? No, Ron Levy is one of the handful of organists who elect to cover the bass duties themselves, which gives greater control of the overall sound but also demands a high standard of musicianship.
The sleevenote by Pete Fallico says "It juxtaposes the retro groove of the seventies with the Hip-Hop jazz grooves of today". I would disagree with that. To these old ears the album has more of a 'classic' sound, like something that could have come out on Blue Note or Prestige in the fifties or early sixties. And take it from me, that's as high a compliment as i can pay an album like this.
Levy's website is at www.levtron.com
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