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Reuben Wilson: Down With It

As the title implies, soul-jazz veteran Reuben Wilson is still Down With It in terms of laying laid-back grooves that are easy on both the head and feet. Eric Seals’ popping basslines and Ed Cherry’s scratching guitar riffs prevents Wilson’s soothing organ melodies from sounding like vintage Blue Note carbon copies. But Melvin Butler’s soulful tenor saxophone with its beautiful tone relies too heavily on mid-’70s Mister Magic-isms.

A solid CD indeed, but unfortunately it contains nothing that would rival, say, Medeski, Martin & Wood. Instead of offering some weathered wisdom on soul-jazz, Wilson sounds like he’s playing catch-up to the now flaccid acid-jazz scene. The first half of the record features songs that are all too interchangeable. But once Wilson breaks from the placebo funk, as on the blustery, “Speakin’ With the Deacon” and the mid-tempo shuffle of “Groove Ahead,” he illustrates why some clich s still works like a charm.

“Speakin With the Deacon” affords the best solos from both Cherry and Butler, while Wilson in turn delivers a rousing gospel-inflected sermon. Down with it? Sure, nothing less, nothing more.

Originally Published