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Jazz for punksters

Up Periscope
Up Periscope
By El Grupo Sexo

Chameleon / Elektra Records: 1988

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This review first appeared in the July 1, 1988 issue of the San Diego Evening Tribune.

El Grupo Sexo, as presented on this album, presents an updated version of Tower of Power's '70s-style funk crossed with stronger jazz influences and a dose of punk. And while the band's appearance, with horrid clashing plaids and Hawaiian print shirts, will never betray them, these guys are excellent musicians.

Their cover of the Tower's "What Is Hip" is a soulful, funky reading that recalls the best blue-eyed R&B bands of the late '60s. The guitar passages have a rippling energy, and the horn section's members trade leads while chasing each other through some very tight charts.

On "Sprechen Sie Be Bop," the band starts off with a free jazz jam, then segues into a loose R&B instrumental with a nice hollow-body guitar solo.

Jazz purists are unlikely to be reeled in by the album cover, and the bawdy lyrics may be a bit off-putting as well. But for young rock and punk fans who don't get how or why jazz was once the world's pop music, El Grupo Sexo's rather loose translation may open some ears.