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Keeping the groove going

Back to the Funk
Back to the Funk
By Bradley Leighton

Pacific Coast Jazz: 2006

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This review first appeared in Turbula in April 2006.

Outside of the great Frank Wess, who spent decades in the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, it's hard to think of a flutist with the in-your-face approach of San Diego's Bradley Leighton.

While fellow local flutist Holly Hofmann is easily Leighton's equal in virtuosity, she brings a quieter chamber approach to her playing.

Leighton's attitude is summed up by his pimped-up album cover, which finds him in a full-length white fur, gold chains, white fedora and Elton John shades – as if rap had developed in the 1930s on the French Riviera.

Give the man his props, though: he backs up that outrageous look with some heavy playing on the disc.

Picking up where last year's "Just Doin' Our Thang" left off, "Back to the Funk" hearkens back to the '70s intersections of soul and jazz. Think Les McCann meets Earth, Wind & Fire with a little house attitude tossed in.

The result is an easy-going but funky groove, highlighted by a chilled-out cover of Ray, Goodman & Brown's "Special Lady." An even more downtempo cover of Bread's "Make it With You" also charms, as does a mellow version of Stevie Wonder rarity "Love Light in Flight."

The rest of the album sustains the easy tempo with originals by Leighton and album producer Allan Phillips.