In Down to the Bone’s universe, horns are plenty, the funk factor is code red and the sound is spit-polished. On their seventh album, producer and composer Stuart Wade and his bandmates dial up the horns to funk again but the overall tone is rawer. That’s good, because a band that offers music on a regular basis like DTTB needs to do something to attract fans that aren’t part of its hardcore base. Then again, with the southerly direction radio and sales are spiking these days, Wade & Co. seem unified with the musical statements defining the most challenging contemporary jazz these days: They create the music they want instead of what the corner-office suits demand. What a concept.
The core band, which hails from the U.K., spins around saxophonist Shilts, guitarist Tony Remy, keyboardists Neil Angilley and Neil Cowley, bassist Julian Crampton and percussionist Richard Sadler. Pumping up the brass is the three-member D.C. Horns. The one track that sticks to your brain, though, offers vibes legend Roy Ayers, now influencing a fresh crop of youngsters in the U.K. The 66-year-old brings bright rays of sunshine to “Electric Vibes,” and his vocal scatting takes it home, heavenly. British R&B’er Hil St. Soul and blues powerhouse Corrina Greyson also breathe fresh air into two vocal tracks, “Smile to Shine” and “Shake It Up,” respectively.
In DTTB’s world, of course, repeated and relentless grooves are the standard. But on “Hip City,” the boys settle into a smooth groove that hints at the best of the Tower of Power catalog. It’s among the band’s catchiest tunes ever.