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Bennie Maupin - Slow Traffic to the Right CD (album) cover


Bennie Maupin


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.73 | 14 ratings

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4 stars Bennie just kept plugging along--as did many of his well-seasoned J-R Fuse collaborators: evolving with the infusing tides of funk, dynamics, smoothness, and commercial-consciousness (and pressure).

1. "It Remains to Be Seen" (8:01) opens sounding like soundtrack music to a sci-fi film, when the full band finally joins in during the second half of the first minute it's with a melodic funk.Throughout the rest of the song the music is surprisingly uniform and simple though melodic: until the fifth minute when the piano arrives it feels very much like a BOB JAMES song. Luckily, Patrice Rushen's piano solo with its backing electric piano gets the blood boiling a bit-- especially when the horn sections accents come in. Then the song mellows for a bit with some smooth choral vocals before going out with some engaging whole group participation rhythmic clapping to the funk. (13.25/15) 2. "Eternal Flame" (4:34) opens with the dreamy sonic landscape of a mellow Ronnie Laws or Tom Scott song. Bennie takes the lead from the start, soloing on the lower registers of his soprano sax while the lush keyboard-rich music beneath seems to carry us gently downstream. Nice key/chord changes here and there giving the song a kind of cinematic feel. (8.875/10)

3. "Water Torture" (4:52) another gently funky BOB JAMES-like songcraft that provides the vehicle for several lead instruments to contribute their smooth, melodic solos over the top: Bennie's tenor sax, Patrice Rushen on Fender Rhodes, all with gorgeous horn (and "strings") accents and banks on the sides, in the pockets between the solos. Beautifully composed and "orchestrated" though this is a far cry from either the rough, raw space music of the Mwandishi sessions (Jewel in the Lotus) or the power funk of Thrust or Spaceball. (9/10)

4. "You Know the Deal" (7:03) this one starts out a little more funky and a little more smoothly orchestrated--like something inspired by Eumir Deodato's work in 1973--but things go robotic BOB JAMES-like with a very blandly repeated rhythm track beneath Bennie's sax soloing. Also, the overall mix of this instrumental palette is rather foggy: nothing is as clear and defined as one might like; everything feels kind of washed into the same spacestream. At the same time, there is something really cool about the way everything is blended: as if the individuals have sacrificed their identity for the sake of oneness/coalescence. (13.25/15)

5. "Lament" (1:52) acoustic piano opens this before being joined by Bennie's bass clarinet for this tender, introspective piece. (4.5/5)

6. "Quasar" (5:53) another fairly long (45-seconds) cinematic intro eventually reveals a pleasant bass-launched and rich and smooth synth-dominated sonic field over which trumpeter Eddie Henderson is given first shot at leading. His play is quite dynamic: with lots of short and staccato notes and bursts; I'd almost call it "old school" but I have to admit that it's very welcome after an album in which everything seems so washed and homogenized. Luckily, the basic rhythmic and melodic foundation of this one is fairly hypnotic. (9/10)

Total Time 32:15

Though I certainly appreciate the skills it took to realize such tightly-perfected soundscapes and compositions, I'm saddened for the restraint and restrictions imposed upon this cast of incredibly talented musicians (many of whom had been collaborating with Bennie since Bitches Brew and/or Mwandishi): I loved so much the era in which multiple musicians were given the green light to move freely--even experimentally--and at all times!--behind and within the sonic landscapes as opposed to this new style where the composer, band leader, and/or producer is seemingly on a quest for perfect chart rendering.

B+/four stars; an excellent addition of the new smoother Jazz-Rock Fusion for the J-R Fuse enthusiast to enjoy as pleasant background music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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