November 2000

Benny Golson Funky Quintet
That's Funky
Arkadia Records

With this aptly described quintet, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson pays tribute to the stylistic idiom that made him famous-hard bop. By channeling his R&B sensibilities, which go back to his 1950s days with Bull Moose, Golson interprets a handful of war horses like Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife," Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" and Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'" with an authoritative yet crowd-pleasing vigor that makes the overall album thoroughly infectious and easy on the ears.
What it may be lacking in invention, Golson's Funky Quintet compensates for in style. The agile Marvin "Smitty" Smith drives the ensemble with thumping backbeats, and Ray Drummond adds more body-rocking thrust with deep, sensuous bass lines, while Nat Adderley's crackling trumpet struts with a swagger and economical phrases more akin to blues than bebop. Pianist Monty Alexander also contributes some soulful asides, especially when he slyly inserts some of his native Jamaican rhythms into his bluesy solos, like on "The Sidewinder."
While some may argue that the material on That's Funky is overdue for a moratorium, Golson's Funky Quintet has ingeniously crafted worthy interpretations that sound fresh without sentimentality or overt pretensions.

Originally published in November 2000
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