Presents Jes Grew, WTFH Music CD 868, 1996 (47:13)
Beautiful New Orleans gumbo
Jeff Muller is the mastermind behind Jes Grew. He wrote the songs (okayhe
copped lyrics from Ishmael Reed on "Groove is the Healer," and
"Transient Blues" is just a brief improv by Dean Rosenthal), plays
guitar on most of the tracks, andpresumablydid the arrangements.
So, whats the result? A tasty slice of New Orleans funk, with both wit
and energy. It reminds me, in its funkiness and intelligence, of the work of
Bob Telson (whose Broadway show The Gospel at Colonus combined
Greek myths with Southern gospel singing).
All the ingredients are here. The album starts with a brief hummed vocal by
Tommy Lepson with his own organ playing setting a reflective groove. Then, up
pops "Groove is the Healer," which delivers one of the two main
messages of the album, namely, "You will be healed when you hear that
funky, funky beat." Indeed, the interaction of the three lead singers with
the backup gospel choir sets a pacifying groove that breaks only briefly to
interpose a bit of John Coltranes "Giant Steps," played
Then May Ann Redmond solos on "Love Doctor," steaming through this
fine ode to health and beauty. Remind you of Aretha? Indeed!the doctor is
in, all right.
"Man in the Rain" (sung by Scott Carter) brings in the second theme.
It tells the story of a "man in the rain...crouching in the mud, drawing
lines in the sand," and challenges us to reach out and understand others.
Is a line like "transient hieroglyphics I try to understand" just a
little too smart? Yeah, well, lighten up, okay?
Meg Murraywho sounds like she might be a pretty good jazz
singerhandles the lead vocals on the low key "Carolina Whisper"
and "Water of Life." Lepson takes hold of "The Docks,
"Maman Marie" and "Isle of Hope." All of them are saturated
with the finest New Orleans funk. "Maman Marie" in particular is the
album highlight for me, very gris-gris, heavy on the congas and other
percussion, but with the smart use of a string quartet as an accent. Tommy
delivers the lines with utter believability: "Youre the devil in a
flowing skirt, Maman Marie, heal my soul."
The album closes with another brief excerpt, this time of a brass band playing
a good second line beat. And then, a second version of "Main in the
Rain" appearsunlisted on the liner notes. This version drops the
guitars for a sparser, percussion-rich sound that, to my ears, suits the song
better. I dont understand why we get both versions, but its nice to
have this one.
Good stuff, and a very classy production. The recording, done over a two-year
period, is good, sometimes better than good; I especially like the crisp second
version of "Man in the Rain." The artwork and design of the album are
very good looking. An insert provides information on other recordings by the
performers, including label addresses, phone numbers and prices. Finally, there
is a plug for the Teaching Tolerance project, which supplies teaching materials
to reduce racial intolerance. Altogether, a warmly recommended
album. Glenn Brooks
Tommy Lepson, vocal and organ; Mary Ann Redmond, Michael McHenry, Meg Murray,
Scott Carter, Eva Cassidy, vocals; Tim Eyerman or Alex Holland, saxes; Dave
Detweiler, trumpet; John Jensen, trombone; Jeff Muller, Joe Yanovitch, Dean
Rosenthal, guitars; Tom Roberts, piano; Jay Turner or Anthony Setola, bass;
Timm Biery, drums and percussion; Josh Howell, percussion. And many others.
Produced by Jeff Muller; engineering and mixed by Timm Bierry; mastered by Bill
Goin Home (Arrival) Groove is the Healer Love
Doctor Man in the Rain Carolina Whisper
Transient Blues The Docks Water of Life
Maman Marie Isle of Hope Goin Home (Departure)
Jeff Muller Present Jes Grew is available for $12 postpaid from
WTFH Music, PO Box 24881, New Orleans, LA 70184-4881. Online, check out
the web site,
or send e-mail to email@example.com.
of related interest
The album contains lots of pointers to good music by the performers (Jeff's generous
nature is evident there). But, since
I mentioned it, here is the lowdown on:
The Gospel at Colonus, Nonesuch CD 79191, 1988