Lettuce: The Flu
Outta Here (Velour Recordings)
John Scofield (guest guitar soloist),
Ryan Zoidis, Sam Kininger (tenor saxes), Jeff Bhasker (keyboards); Neal Evans (organ), Eric Krasno, Adam Smirnoff (guitars), Erick Coomes (bass), Adam Deitch (drums), Atticus Cole (percussion).
Recorded: New York, 2002
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
Down and dirty, nasty stinky-funky horn bands from the '60s – how we miss them, or should. While most people are familiar with such hit makers as Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, and the synco-pathological Tower of Power, few recall the glory days of Dreams, Ten Wheel Drive, Cold Blood, The Flock, Ball 'N Jack, and the legendary players who emerged from those killer ensembles. Although such bands never had the broad appeal and financial success of the big rockers or the critical accolades that mainstream jazz artists enjoyed, they served one important, often overlooked function. They bridged the gap between jazz, rock 'n' roll and R&B, cross-pollinating the occasionally contentious factions, bringing new players, concepts and audiences to each genre. Changing trends and logistical difficulties inherent in the care and feeding of these larger groups ultimately led to their near-extinction.
Now, however, a new batch of funk-jazz fusion horn groups is emerging, and Lettuce is at the front of the patch. Sounding like a modern hybrid of T.O.P. and Parliament/Funkadelics, these East Coast evangelists preach the gospel of funk and understand its theology: the importance of space, the oxymoronic concept of complex simplicity, and the critical albeit intangible pocket or "slot." Plus, they can really blow!
Lettuce is more about the whole than its parts, but there are moments of solo brilliance. "The Flu" is a straight-up funk jam featuring a guest appearance by the electrifying John Scofield, doing what Scofield does best: shredding the outside corners of the box. Intricate horn lines lock in with the precision rhythm section, driven by the lightning and thunder of Erick Coomes and Adam Deitch. If these guys were any tighter, they'd be waterproof.
Reviewer: Bill Barnes
Tags: 2000s jazz