Bernard “Pretty” Purdie: Soul To Jazz

On Soul to Jazz (ACT 9242-2; 65:14), drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, a collaborator with luminaries from Steely Dan to Aretha Franklin, combines stomping, funky rhythms with thick, old-style big band arrangements for an uncommonly rich, thoroughly engaging record. Purdie uses huge, wall-of-horn harmonies (including the Brecker Brothers, as well as the WDR Big Band) to soup up modern tunes like “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “Superstition,” which is given a heady swaggering feel. His arranging wiles transform the campy “Iko Iko” into an irresistible Cajun big band swamp stomp, and “Land of 1,000 Dances” into a hyper, hard-edged rock-out. Equally surprising is a stately gospel read of “When a Man Loves a Woman,” which, anchored by growling vocalist Martin Moss, is miles from Michael Bolton blandness. Although Purdie loses points with this reviewer for his inexplicable nudie CD cover, Soul to Jazz is one dynamic, not-to-miss effort.