Review: Jimmy Smith Tribute Featuring Fred Wesley at Ronnie Scott’s

Fred Wesley

Jimmy Smith Tribute Featuring Fred Wesley
(Ronnie Scott’s, Thursday 13th June 2013 Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Trombonist Fred Wesley is the personification of funk. Gaining exposure with James Brown in 1968, co-leading the spin-off group The JB Horns and working with Parliament-Funkadelic, his CV includes stints with Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. Now in his 70th year, he is heard infrequently in a straighforward jazz setting.

Wesley’s starring role in this tribute to Jimmy Smith - put together by 21-year-old Hammond organ player Leonardo Corradi and French drummer Tony Match - was intriguing, as the connection between Wesley and Smith is far from obvious. In a recent interview for a French magazine, the trombonist observes that the legendary organist is the link between funk and jazz. Although a recording appears to exist of a gig in 2001, Wesley maintains that, despite his admiration for Smith, the pair never met.

At Ronnie Scott’s, after a short solo introduction by Corradi, the organist was joined by Match for a somewhat watery Sunny. For many in the audience, trumpet player Fabrizio Bosso will have been a revelation, and the 39-year-old from Turin immediately raised the temperature on the next selection with brilliant bursts of strong, flamboyant work reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard. The arrival of Fred Wesley and Jesse Davis for a medium-paced blues coincided with the departure of Bosso, and such comings and goings set the pattern for an evening that was dominated by backbeat blues. The full band played together on only five tunes.

The Preacher (Horace Silver’s take on “Show Me The Way To Go Home”) was the first quintet piece. It featured Bosso, employing a rubber plunger mute, and he was absolutely on fire. Spine-tingling moments also came from Corradi, who used a range of effects and timbres to vary the flavour. The first set concluded with a curiously banal arrangement of Caravan, during which Bosso fashioned one more stonking solo.

A duet for organ and alto sax on a passionate Lover Man was followed by Recorda-Me (taken as a quartet without Davis). Joe Henderson’s most-played composition brought imagination and inspiration from Wesley and he produced his best solo of the night. The Jimmy Smith connection was resumed for a suitably downhome Back At The Chicken Shack (a quartet without Bosso).

Eventually, Wesley’s funky side rose to the surface. He sang on Got My Mojo Working, including a scat section in the style of Dizzy Gillespie; and House Party (a piece that does not appear on Smith’s recording from the late 50’s bearing that title) had the capacity audience singing and on its feet. The instrumental encore - another basic blues - brought an end to this enjoyable and undemanding performance.

Fred Wesley – trombone, vocals
Fabrizio Bosso – trumpet
Jesse Davis – alto saxophone
Leonardo Corradi – Hammond organ
Tony Match – drums

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