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Jeff Muller
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 (okay–he 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, and–presumably–did the arrangements. So, what’s 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 Coltrane’s "Giant Steps," played brass-band style.

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 Murray–who sounds like she might be a pretty good jazz singer–handles 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: "You’re 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" appears–unlisted on the liner notes. This version drops the guitars for a sparser, percussion-rich sound that, to my ears, suits the song better. I don’t understand why we get both versions, but it’s 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 Wolf.

song list

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

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

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.