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July/August 2007

Carl Allen & Rodney Whitaker
Get Ready
Mack Avenue Records

Drummer Carl Allen and bassist Rodney Whitaker—who rose up during the era of Young Lions—join forces for an album that explores their common ground, through interpretations of gospel and Motown classics, along with a few originals. The title track pits the Temptations’ hit over a sensual Marvin Gaye-inspired tempo and creates high hopes for what will follow. But much of the album falls short because the band approaches the music too gently and misses the spark or sanctification of these compositions.

A large part of the problem seems to come from the production. It undercuts Allen’s playing; his kit doesn’t have a strong presence except for his snare, which should have more of a crack anyway. Steve Wilson’s alto and soprano saxophones stick to the same emotional range through most of the material, too, making it blur together.

That’s not to say that Get Ready doesn’t have some strong moments. Whitaker’s bass playing and walking style sound impressive throughout. Of the gospel selections, “We Fall Down” has a bounce borrowed from “Poinciana” and a swirling piano and B3 texture. Allen’s “Now Silence” ends the album in Monk’s mood, hinting that more originals might be the approach to take in the future.

Originally published in July/August 2007
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