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January/February 2005

John "Papa" DeFrancesco
Walking Uptown
Savant

Like his excitable and extremely gifted son Joey, "Papa" John DeFrancesco likes to build to big crescendos and dive headlong into the blues, as heard on Walking Uptown (Savant). The Philly patriarch radiates chitlin' circuit charm at the console, and he comes armed with a whole bag of showman tricks: the droning, wailing high-note pedal-point shtick on the raucous opener "One for Jack Mac"; the proverbial "pulling out all the stops" for dramatic effect on Curtis Mayfield's churchy "People Get Ready"; the percussive comping on the superfunky "160 Million Dollar Chinese Man."

DeFrancesco's definitely more grits 'n' gravy than hard bop, as evidenced by his greasy performances of Booker Ervin's "Mojo," the shuffling title track and the soul-jazz boogaloo "Delaware Fox." Papa John's eldest son, John Jr., contributes some blues-drenched guitar work throughout (more Gatemouth Brown and B.B. King than Wes Montgomery and Grant Green) and Joey makes guest appearances on trumpet ("Walking Uptown") and on Fender Rhodes for the smooth-jazz closer "What Happened," which is strangely out of place amongst the rest of this funk 'n' blues repertoire. Tim Warfield adds strong contributions on tenor sax, particularly with his gutsy-soulful performances on "One for Jack Mac" and "People Get Ready."

Originally published in January/February 2005
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