Bradley Leighton Just Doin' Our Thang Pacific Coast Jazz 260001-4 Street Date: May 10, 2005
Bradley Leighton – Just Doin’ Our Thang
On his second solo release, Just Doin’ Our Thang, Bradley Leighton lays down his usual flute to perform exclusively on the alto flute. The instrument’s deeper, warm and mellow sonority blends perfectly with the smooth, classic Hammond B3 group sound with which the flutist has chosen to surround himself on his followup to his 2003 Pacific Coast Jazz disc, Groove Yard. Accompanied by Southern California veterans, organist Rob Whitlock, guitarist Bob Boss and drummer Duncan Moore, Leighton sails through this bright and breezy collection of originals and standards freshly arranged with producer Allan Phillips.
The date kicks off with a new look at the old pop hit Sunny. A staple of the organ group repertoire, with recordings by artists from Jimmy Smith to Groove Holmes to Joey DeFrancesco, Leighton and company take a new rhythmic approach to the sixties chartbuster – starting it off as a cha-cha, with Phillips’ bongos added to the mix, and alternating it with a funk section as the leader grooves over the slick soulful sound of the trio.
Leighton digs deep into his bebop roots on Charlie Parker’s Now’s The Time, swinging straight ahead on the jazz classic. Whitlock lays down a strong walking bass line over which the flutist blows Bird’s simple elegant melody. Boss improvises gracefully on guitar and Leighton’s solo is a model of melodic inventiveness. The traditional arrangement concludes with Moore trading four bar exchanges with the rest of the group.
Phillips arranged Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme as a special feature for the rock solid drumming of Duncan Moore with his own congas contributing a Latin flavor to the film score favorite. Leighton’s use of the alto flute’s darker register is particularly effective here, emphasizing the song’s ominous dramatic line.
Summertime is set up with a gospel tinged organ prelude before Leighton introduces the popular melody at an appropriately relaxed tempo. The flutist stretches out impressively on the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess standard, followed by Boss, then both gliding easily along over Whitlock’s understated organ accompaniment and Moore’s tasteful brushwork.
Bobby Womack’s Breezin’ has become a staple for jazz guitar ever since George Benson immortalized the song back in the seventies. Whitlock lays down a funky bass line, accompanied by Phillips’ congas, to open things up before Leighton plays the beautiful line. A riffing rhythmic countermelody by the flutist gives the song a happy feeling that the band follows through with nicely.
Leighton’s Carefree is the first of three originals by the leader. It’s a lighthearted tune that lives up to its title. The optimistic melody, the kind one might whistle while strolling down the street feeling particularly cheerful, stays with the listener.
Europa is one of several Santana songs Leighton likes to stretch out on in his live performances, often using the guitarist’s lines as a springboard for his own electronically enhanced flute effects. On this rendition he plays it straight, bringing out the inherent beauty of the Spanish-tinged melody that informs his bluesy solo.
Leighton’s Lazy Summer Days is another original by the leader. The flutist wrote this one shortly after migrating to southern California from his native Washington state. It’s a funky line, enhanced by Phillips’ percussion and keyboards, with an appealing bridge that moves the mood from happy-go-lucky to thoughtful.
Ain’t No Sunshine is another sixties R & B hit that is finding its way into the modern jazz repertoire. Leighton’s reading is faithful to Bill Withers’ remorseful melodic line, while Phillips’ synthesizer contributes to the song’s contemporary feel.
Leighton demonstrated a way with Brazilian music on his debut release, recording two Jobim compositions. On this date he continues his love affair with the rhythms of Brazil performing Allan Phillips’ beautiful bossa nova Deep Sea. Boss and Whitlock also display an affinity for the form with appealing solos.
Easy Morning, Leighton’s third original, is another relaxed romantic outing. The simple, but attractive melody briefly betrays an ever so slight melancholy mood that becomes progressively more contemplative and resolves on a happier note.
The date ends with the group stretching out on a fresh arrangement of another old standard. Leighton and Phillips give the Kurt Weil / Ogden Nash classic Speak Low a Latinish lilt to start off and finish it with a classic straight ahead swing that lets the band show off their chops.
The grouping of alto flute with an organ trio and percussion is an unusual combination in jazz. Bradley Leighton and his California colleagues bring a rare flair to the grouping. Their interpretations of these innovative arrangements of new and old jazz standards and contemporary originals bring a breath of fresh air to the genre. It’s music with a smooth warm glow.
Artist Website: www.bradleyleighton.com or www.fluteguy.com
Distribution: Big Daddy Music Distribution – New York
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