Paul Jackson Trio ‘Groove or Die’ (Whirlwind) 3/5

paul-jackson-trioHeadhunters era bassist Paul Jackson has featured on some of the classic funk-tinged jazz albums of the 1970s and has moreover performed with the likes of George Benson, Chick Corea and Stevie Wonder among others, and this album as a leader certainly hints at a retro groove. However, if anything that groove is a good deal smoother than one might have expected with a strong soulful influence in the vocals which are primarily delivered by Jackson himself. Therein lies the dilemma for fans of the jazzier side to Jackson’s portfolio too much of the vocal material is at a similar downbeat tempo typified by the opener ‘Groove’ and greater variation is required to retain the listener’s attention for an entire album. The trio are at their best on the funk jam of ‘Tiptoe through the groove’ with the trademark bass intro and some eerie keyboard accompaniment. Likewise, the bass groove funk outing of ‘Slick it’ impresses with some subtle keyboards and wordless scatting. Elsewhere, there are some lovely electric piano vamps on ‘What you’re talkin’ about’ which in tone harks back to mid-1970s Stevie Wonder territory, with the drums only kicking in half way through proceedings and Jackson seems to be aiming at that market. All the more reason, then, to have some varied material on offer. On the all-too-brief percussive ‘Nuru’, there is a hint at a world fusion sound and this could be usefully explored further on future albums. It has to be stated that the musicianship throughout is excellent and one hope that on future recordings a greater balance between instrumental virtuosity and the more soulful side of Jackson’s repertoire can be struck. The trio will be performing a one-off concert at the Hideaway on November 14 as part of the London Jazz Festival.

Tim Stenhouse