|Bill Evans (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocoder); Les McCann (vocals); Dean Brown, John Scofield (guitar); Lew Soloff (trumpet); Conrad Herwig (trombone); Ricky Peterson (piano, Hammond b-3 organ); James Genus, Tim Lefebvre (bass guitar); Steve Jordan (drums); Don Alias (percussion); Vaneese Thomas (background vocals).
Funk is definitely in the house on Soul Insider, Bill Evans' latest for ESC Records. A groovy outing that pays tribute to soul-jazz icons like Eddie Harris, Gene Harris and Les McCann (who makes a special guest vocal appearance on two tracks).
SoulInsider is an earthy vehicle for some uninhibited stretching by Evans and his all-star band of jazz-funksters (drummer Steve Jordan, organist Ricky Peterson, guitarist Dean Brown, bassists James Genus and Tim Lefebvre, percussionist Don Alias). Guitarist John Scofield, a former bandmate of Bill's back in their days together in Miles Davis' group, guests on the crawling funk workout Gimme Some and on Thump, a tune that places Scofield on familiar footing from the funk-laden fare he has explored recently on his own "Au Go Go and "Bump projects.
"I wanted this album to be more about my interpretation of soul-jazz, says the celebrated saxophonist. I stayed very focused on the soul flavor. Soul Insider also marks the first time in his career that Evans plays all the horns, soaring freely on alto, soprano and tenor saxes while also enhancing the bottom with groovy baritone sax lines (particularly evident on the ominous, slow-grooving funk of Big Mama). Bill, along with trumpeter Lew Soloff and trombonist Conrad Herwig, comprise The Voodoo Horns on most of the tracks here. Evans features soprano as his main voice on Big Mama, Sneaky and Older Days, pulls out the tenor for some aggressive blowing on Van's Joint, Cool Eddie, Gimme Some, Sneaky and Shorty's Shuffle and highlights alto on Cheeks. Jordan's inimitable snare crackle, which has propelled countless recordings (including Keith Richards' "Talk Is Cheap" and Robert Cray's acclaimed "Take Your Shoes Off" ) fuels the grooves on this unabashedly funky project. "His playing validates his superstar status, says Evans. "Only Steve Jordan could come up with the grooves that he played on this record. Evans says that the idea of Soul Insider has actually been brewing for a long time. "There is a soul side of me that I have wanted to express throughout the years. When I play live with my group we seem to naturally go in this direction much of the time, and I've always wanted to capture that spirit on CD. It's a great vehicle for some creative playing, but it's also really connected to that whole jam band scene, exploring the funk of P-Funk, James Brown and Maceo Parker.
Evans adds that a key to the success of Soul Insider was the inherent chemistry of all the participants in the studio. "These are the most soulful musicians I could've put together. Ricky Peterson and Steve Jordan have known each other for a long time, so they got their own groove thing down. Ricky, Don Alias and Dean Brown have played together for years in David Sanborn's group. We have all played together at different times with James Genus. And Tim Lefebvre has been a bass player of mine for a long time. So with that kind of chemistry in place, all the ingredients for a meaningful musical experience were there. He called Soul Insider "the easiest and most fun of any record I've done. It absolutely flowed from the writing of the music to the final mix. And in the studio it was fun and inspirational from day one. We just laughed and played and had a great time right from the beginning. It was one of those things where it really felt like a band.
In writing the material for Soul Insider, Evans invoked some of his primary influences, including soulful tenor saxophonists like Junior Walker, Stanley Turrentine and Eddie Harris. The Harris connection is especially apparent on his homage to the late, great jazz innovator, Cool Eddie, which is partially based on Harris' big hit from 1966, "Listen Here. Les McCann, who collaborated with Eddie Harris in 1969 on the landmark live recording Swiss Movement , offers up typically soulful vocals and earthy lyrics on Lose My Number and You Sure Look Good To Me. Bill explains the McCann connection: "I always wanted to work with Les at some point in my career and now seemed like the right time. Les is such a great human being as well as musician. I never met anyone as personable as Les, and it flows from his music and vocals. When I first spoke to him on the phone we immediately decided to write something together. So I wrote the music and what he sang over it was pure magic.
Evans adds that the two did previously share a bandstand together, if only for one brief yet memorable occasional some 12 years ago. "One night in 1988 he sat in with my group somewhere in South Carolina. We played 'Compared to What' and brought the house down. It was just amazing, I'll never forget it. So when I was writing the material for this album, I started thinking of Les. And I'm so glad it worked out. We are planning to have him do some appearances with us this fall at festivals in Europe.
Bill was especially pleased to be reunited on this project with Scofield on Gimme Some and Thump, in which they engage in some highly charged call-and-response on a deep funk groove. "It was good to play with Sco again. We haven't played together in almost 17 years. We've crossed paths a lot in that time and I've always felt that we shared a lot of common ground musically. I've always loved his style but I really like that jam sort of vibe he got into on "Au Go Go and "Bump. So it was fun to play with him on this project. I would like to do some more stuff with John in the future. Meanwhile, Bill says he's excited about taking his band out on tour and seeing just how far he can stretch this funk-laden material in a live setting. "Live you can stretch and really connect with the audience.
1. Vans Joint (LISTEN TO AUDIO)
2. Cool Eddie (LISTEN TO AUDIO)
3. Lose My Number (LISTEN TO AUDIO)
4. Cheeks (LISTEN TO AUDIO)
5. You Sure Look Good to Me (LISTEN TO AUDIO)
6. Big Mama
8. Gimme Some
9. Older Days
11. The Shortie Shuffle