Re-Invention might be a case of thou-doth-protest-too-much. For starters, there’s the title, which suggests this is version 2.0 or better of whatever came before. Then there are the assertions in the liner notes that something new is going on here. But it ain’t so. We’ve heard this sort of washed-out-neo-soul-jazz-groove thing before, in the music of Karl Denson, Soulive, the Greyboy All-Stars and many others.
That’s not to say the Dixon-Rhyne Project is wasting its time. The musicians—saxophonist Rob Dixon, organist Melvin Rhyne, guitarist Fareed Haque and drummer Kenny Phelps—do gel and do groove. The individual musicianship excels in places; Haque turns in a blistering solo on the rock-inflected “Tomorrow Sierra.” But this album feels awfully familiar, and that’s probably because it isn’t very distinctive. “Carousel” is the most basic of blues-based grooves, and “Chit’lins Con Carne” (Kenny Burrell’s old tune) comes straight out of the ’60s soul-jazz tradition. The drum ’n’ bass vibe of “Shadow and Light” tries so hard to be cool, but in the end it sounds like middle-aged and old guys trying to come off as young cats. Hey, I love organ-based soul-jazz as much as anyone, but I’ve heard this song before.