Legendary saxophonist Lou Donaldson doesn’t subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach in his own music making. His oeuvre, which spans more than half a century, touches on bop, hard bop, soul-jazz, and funk, with each setting allowing for a different aspect of his musical personality to shine. In crafting a tribute to Donaldson, trumpeter Mark Rapp honors this diversity and organic amalgam of music by touching on various styles, as he works his way through Donaldson’s catalog.
Rapp’s band is appropriately called Melting Pot, and they certainly know how to blend genres and cross stylistic lines. The band is comfortable dealing with Donaldson’s legacy in a fairly straightforward fashion, but also revels in updating a few of his pieces. The funky blues strut of “Alligator Boogaloo” and the James Brown-ish funk of “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On)” fall under the first heading, as does the joyous and churchy “Love Power.”
When Rapp goes the other way, and peels back the stylistic skin originally attached to Donaldson’s music, his own diverse experiences and interests come into play. “Brother Soul,” featuring Rapp’s didgeridoo and trumpet along with Don Braden’s alto flute, is reborn in a mystical shrine of sound. The somewhat static serenity of “Elizabeth,” with Rapp’s effects-laden trumpet moving atop the gentle waters, brings Donaldson’s music into the realm of Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way.” Another Davis allusion appears on “One Cylinder,” which begins as aural oddities abound and focuses on Rapp’s muted horn work.
The title track is Rapp’s lone original, and places his trumpet atop drummer Klemens Marktl’s joyous tom groove, which is pure New Orleans with a little bit of a Bo Diddley beat beneath it. Once that brief number is through, Rapp focuses on having fun as he closes the album by delivering two of the popular covers that made their way into Donaldson’s repertoire. Quincy Jones’ theme from “Sanford and Son” and “The Glory Of Love” are right-down-the-middle, with no surprises but lots of great grooves and fine solo licks worth smiling about. With a tribute to Billy Strayhorn already under his belt, and this strong Donaldson-based outing added to his discography, Rapp is quickly developing a reputation as a superb interpreter and great stylist, willing to tackle the history of this music with his eyes on the past and his mind on the present and future of this music.
By DAN BILAWSKY