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Bennie Maupin - Slow Traffic To The Right CD (album) cover

SLOW TRAFFIC TO THE RIGHT

Bennie Maupin

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.58 | 6 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Critics often write this record off as being Bennie Maupin's 'commercial album', there are a few 'mellow' groove oriented cuts on here, but this is far from typical late 70s fusion-lite, or 'fuzak'. Maupin had just finished long stints with Herbie Hancock's avant-electro fusion Sextet as well as his futuristic funk band The Headhunters when he released this album that combines The Sextets psychedelic electronic textures with The Headhunters sophisticated orchestrated grooves. It took Herbie's ex-sideman to create the perfect blend of Hancock's adventurous Crossings and his more tightly focused Manchild.

It Remains to be Seen kicks off the album with a steady funk groove layered with reverb heavy orchestrated horns and electronic atmospheres. The beat is unobtrusive and seems to pre-date 90s acid jazz and trip-hop. Bennie and pianist Patrice Rushen turn in high energy solos that lift the song far from commercial pabulum. This song is followed by Eternal Flame, a long unwinding melody backed by an abstract jazz beat. The harmonies and the song's long dramatic build-up recall some of Debussy and Ravel's Spanish tinged music. This song wouldn't sound out of place on an ECM release.

Side one closes out with Water Torture, a slightly funkier remake of a former abstract Sextet tune. Maupin also augments the original arrangement with lot's of extras as he showcases his ability to orchestrate with his small ensemble. Throughout the album Bennie combines his arsenal of woodwinds with synthesist Pat Gleeson's electronics to create exotic 70s 'futuristic' sound textures. When they occasionally add wordless vocals they almost take the music into 'space-age bachelor' territory. Speaking of kitsch, side two opens with You Know the Deal, a slow funk number that has blaxploitation soundtrack written all over it. Gleeson's bizarre synth breaks and Blackbird McKnight's classic late 60s fuzz tone psychedelic guitar solo complete this gritty urban scenario for a car chase that never happened.

Next up is Lament, an acoustic classically influenced jazz ballad with Maupin on clarinet and Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano. The album closes with Quasar, yet another tune that originally appeared on a Sextet album. This time I prefer the more subtle original version to this album's version which has the song's exotic melody repeated too many times and subjected to an anachronistic early-70s styled progressive rock like huge build-up with a massive string orchestra to the point that it really is a bit overdone.

If you like the sophisticated psychedelic groove music of Herbie Hancock's early 70s bands and soundtracks, then you will probably like this brilliant spin-off by Bennie Maupin.

js (Easy Money) | 4/5 |

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