Reuben Wilson – 1969 – Blue Mode
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Heavy funk from the mighty Reuben Wilson – one of his first few albums for Blue Note, and a solid soulful groover that’s right up there with Lou Donaldson’s work for the label at the time! Tracks are nice and long, and pretty open – often with that kicking drum sound at the bottom that you’d normally associate with Idris Muhammad, but which is handled here by Tommy Derrick on drums. Melvin Sparks plays some mighty mean guitar – in that great lean early style of his – and the group’s completed by John Manning on tenor, a player we don’t know at all – but whose lines here are a great counterpart to Wilson’s heavy Hammond!
A1 Bambu 8:03
A2 Knock On Wood 6:09
A3 Bus Ride 6:09
B1 Orange Peel 6:36
B2 Twenty-Five Miles 7:11
B3 Blue Mode 7:26
If Love Bug skirted the edges of free jazz and black power, Blue Mode embraces soul-jazz and Memphis funk in no uncertain terms. Opening with the cinematic, stuttering “Bambu” and running through a set of relaxed, funky grooves — including covers of Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood” and Edwin Starr’s “Twenty-Five Miles” — Blue Mode isn’t strictly a jazz album, but its gritty, jazzy vamps and urban soul-blues make it highly enjoyable. Reuben Wilson has a laid-back, friendly style and his supporting band — tenor saxophonist John Manning, guitarist Melvin Sparks, and drummer Tommy Derrick — demonstrate a similarly warm sense of tone. While none of them break through with any improvisations that would satiate hardcore jazz purists, they know how to work a groove, and that’s what makes Blue Mode a winner.
This is *THE* definitive funky organ groove album. Recorded in December of ’69, its a strong follow up to Reuben’s funky LOVE BUG – despite not having the dream team line up of his previous LP which featured George Coleman, Grant Green, Lee Morgan and Idris Muhammad, this one is actually stronger and funkier, thanks in part to the presence of Melvin Sparks on the guitar. (John Manning on sax, Tommy Derrick on drums) – – The groove is timeless organic Memphis Soul meets JB funk – – Reuben kicks those trademark boogaloo style basslines, while firing all those mean licks with his right hand… John Manning’s playing is gritty and wicked – – clearly if you want to go deep down in the vaults looking for the best ’60s Blue Note funk you can find, this *is* it.