Toph-E and the Pussycats: Live in Detroit

You gather respected musicians Clifford Carter on keys, Ralph MacDonald on percussion, Chris Parker on drums, David Mann on sax and Will Lee on bass and vocals, call them Toph-E & the Pussycats and release a live album called Live in Detroit. What do you think it’s going to be-safe and predictable? Of course not. You never know where the music’s headed with this CD, which is part of the fun. A wild, free-flowing take on Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” for example, is followed by a sensual original tune called “Minky, Don’t You Weep” that’s a real showcase for Mann.

The pop hit “Just the Two of Us” is sufficiently lounge-worthy, with Lee’s smoky, worldly vocals contrasting sharply with Bill Withers’ smooth take on the original with Grover Washington Jr. Meanwhile, Washington’s most famous instrumental tune, “Mister Magic,” is given a 14-minute workout with extensive soloing. The ‘Cats also have a swinging good time on the Les McCann-Eddie Harris classic “Compared to What,” and you can sense the energy the group must have been getting from the enthusiastic crowd.