Benjamin Koppel – The Ultimate Soul and Jazz Revue – Cowbell

by | Oct 25, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Benjamin Koppel – The Ultimate Soul and Jazz Revue – Cowbell/Unit UTR 4959 – 52:03/ 52:08 – ****1/2

Danish alto saxophonist, Benjamin Koppel, grew up listening to the soul and funk music that happily dominated the airwaves,(even in Europe, influencing The Beatles and Rolling Stones) throughout the 60s and 70s. Whether it originated from Detroit, Philadelphia, or Memphis, its intoxicating old school groove lifted the spirits, either on the dance floor, or hanging with friends on a cold winter night. Dominant to its appeal was soulful drumming with a backbeat. There was no need for drum solos, just a steady groove that set the stage for its sweet lyrics, augmented by background horns.

The drummer in demand during this period (and still going strong today at age 81!) was Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. He was the master drummer with his “Purdie Shuffle” (a signature use of triplets against a half time backbeat). There were iconic drummers (largely from The Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles), but Purdie was there for some of the most historical music of the day, serving as the musical director for Aretha Franklin during the crucial period from 1970-1975, as well as backing saxophonist, King Curtis, and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. The jazz world recognized the genius of Bernard , and he drummed for Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. His work also gave Steely Dan their polished groove. Purdie has been stated to be the world’s most recorded drummer, appearing on well over 3000 albums.

When Benjamin Koppel decided to honor the music he so much loved in his youth, there was no one more iconic than “Pretty” Purdie to be in the drum chair. Rounding out the quintet that plays on all eleven tracks is veteran trumpeter Randy Brecker (who along with his brother, saxophonist Michael), explored jazz fusion and funk in the 1970s. Along with Purdie, Jacob Christofferson on Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Synth; and Scott Colley, on bass, make up the rhythm section. On seven tracks Koppel adds Dan Hemmer on the Hammond organ, Jacob Anderson on percussion, and Soren Heller on guitar. Benjamin’s sister, Marie Carmen Koppel, ably handles the vocal on Aretha’s “Respect.”

Song selection on the two CDs is top shelf, with three originals from Benjamin, and eight classics from the period. Koppel’s soul and funk bona fides are on full display as he brings out the joy in tracks from Buddy Miles, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, King Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, and Sly Stone. Recorded live at Koppel’s annual Summer Jazz Festival in Copenhagen in 2019, once the groove kicks in it’s a fun ride through nearly two hours of soulful bliss. (I sure wish there was a video for us stateside fans who can only fantasize about the horns grooving with Mr. Purdie in person…)

It’s off to the races with Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” with Jacob Christofferson’s Fender Rhodes stirring the pot. Randy Brecker gets in his licks as well. Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro-Cuban standard, “Manteca” gets a funk treatment, with Bernard and percussionist, Jacob Andersen, providing the pulse backed by organ. Koppel’s “Hammond Street” takes us on a street that we want to visit. Purdie spurs on Benjamin to enter a double time frenzy.

Curtis Mayfield’s classic anthem, “Move On Up” brings on a feel good vibe so needed in today’s stressful times. Benjamin’s “Feel the Bern” is dedicated to the drum master, and it blends crossover soul and jazz, beginning with Purdie’s groovy time keeping. The horns gentle blend is like warm honey over toast.

CD 2 opens with a moody ballad, “Con Alma and Jazz.” It provides an opportunity to ruminate and and rest your toe tapping toes. Koppel gets into a thoughtful groove, like a story teller sharing his innermost thoughts. “Groove Me” is anchored by Scott Colley’s steady heartbeat acoustic bass, and Bernard’s dependable backbeat. I dug Dan Hemmer’s Hammond organ accompaniment here.

Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” needs no introduction except to say that “Pretty”

does his thing to make this a special rendition. The Carpenter’s “Close to You” gets a soul infusion from Purdie, while the closing tune, Sly Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” is aided by lubricated Hammond and a funkified Koppel alto sax, while Randy Brecker’s trumpet strut, helps make this soul staple proud.

This 2 CD soul fest is feel good music, much like comfort food, it provides a soothing salve to ease these turbulent times. You won’t regret its purchase…

(Benjamin Koppel – alto sax; Randy Brecker – trumpet; Jacob Christofferson – Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, synth; Scott Colley – bass; Bernard Purdie – drums; Dan Hemmer – Hammond organ; Jacob Andersen – percussion; Soren Heller – guitar; Marie Carmen Koppel – vocal on “Respect” )

CD 1:
Them Changes
Hammond Street
Move on Up
Feel the Bern

CD 2:
Con Alma and Sax
Groove Me
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
Close to You
Sing a Simple Song

—Jeff Krow

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure