Friday, March 02, 2012

Bennie Maupin twofer - NYC Jazz Record

Bennie Maupin - Slower Traffic to the Right/Moonscapes

Undersung woodwind master Bennie Maupin has
released surprisingly few records under his own name.
After a stint in New York playing saxophone with
everyone from Roy Haynes to Horace Silver in the ‘60s,
Maupin found himself a part of the Miles Davis Bitches
Brew sessions, honking on bass clarinet. That low,
reedy sound helped set Maupin apart amid the cast of
allstars. From that success Maupin eventually landed
himself on another defining album: Herbie Hancock’s
Head Hunters. It was that album that secured Maupin’s
place as a funk legend.

Slower Traffic To The Right, Maupin’s second album
as a leader, is clearly a post-Headhunters release but
with friendlier running times and a definite bid for a
crossover appeal. The album is filled with driving funk
and the kind of glittery keyboards one might expect
from 1977. The guitars wah and the bass plunks and
over all of it Maupin maintains his leadership presence,
knocking out confident solos left and right. Pianist
Patrice Rushen, only in her early 20s here and less than
a year from dominating the R&B charts, gives a
powerful solo over the ambient opener “It Remains to
be Seen”. “Water Torture”, which first appeared on
Herbie Hancock’s Crossings album, gets a frenetic
rerecording, featuring James Levi’s furious hi-hat
while guitarist Blackbird McKnight tears it up on the
strutting “You Know the Deal”.

Moonscapes, Maupin’s 1978 follow-up, is not
surprisingly, a more subdued affair. “Farewell to
Rahsaan”, Maupin’s tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk,
features a multi-tracked Maupin soaring over tingling
keyboards and harp. “Anua” turns up the funk with
Abe Laboriel’s repeated bass figure providing
grounding for Maupin’s wailing soprano and Bobby
Lyle’s scattered piano. “Just Give It Some Time” is a
radio-friendly, midtempo groove that makes plenty of
room for Maupin’s soprano while “Sansho Shima”
kicks it up a bit. Harvey Mason pummels his drumkit
behind the band’s collective repetition until Maupin
sets off on a blistering solo that finds the band at their
most passionate.

Both of these albums have their charms and it is
unfortunate that it took so long for them to find a
rerelease. Maupin is in top form, awash in ‘70s jazz/
funk production yet authentic and heartfelt. This
twofer only emphasizes the regret that Maupin didn’t
record more at the time.

Bennie Maupin @ NYC Jazz Record

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