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September 2006

Cornell Dupree
Night Fever: The Versatile Sessions
Empire Music Group

Cornell Dupree is one of those R&B, funk and fusion session players whose playing is undoubtedly on at least one CD in your collection. Discovered by saxman King Curtis, Dupree was a member of Aretha Franklin’s touring band for nine years and is said to have participated in more than 2,500 sessions with Paul Simon, Lou Rawls, Roberta Flack, Joe Cocker, Donny Hathaway and so on.

In 1977 and 1978, during the height of disco, Dupree released two solo albums for the New York-based Versatile label. The 14 songs from those two projects, Saturday Night Fever and Shadow Dancing, have now been reissued on one CD.

Dupree’s disco journey might have been a very bad karaoke soundtrack, but he was too much of a player for that scenario. The ubiquitous disco strings are there, of course, but so too are Dupree’s bluesy and jazzy licks. “Stayin’ Alive,” “Boogie Nights” and “How Deep Is Your Love?” are fun Saturday-night dance tunes, but Dupree also jams on other radio hits from the era, like Steven Bishop’s “On and On,” Steely Dan’s “Peg,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” and even Dolly Parton’s “Two Doors Down.” And if you want to hear Dupree really get down, check out his original song “The Creeper,” a nasty blues jam.

Originally published in September 2006
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