Review: Raphael Wressnig & Alex Schultz – Soul Gift
Posted on: Sunday, May 6, 2012
Raphael Wressnig & Alex Schultz – Soul Gift
(Pepper Cake Records – PEC 2077-2)
Here’s a musical marriage made in heaven . . . the Vienna-based Hammond B3 maestro, Raphael Wressnig, teaming up again with the West Coast guitar legend Alex Schultz, one of the most in-demand players around, and with a CV that boasts stints with harmonica giants William Clarke and Rod Piazza and also being a member of the late Lester Butler’s 13, and with hundreds of session appearances to his name.
They reunite on “Soul Gift”, a follow-up to the 2008 release, “(Don’t Be) Afraid To Groove” . . . and on this they certainly aren’t, joined by special guests Tad Robinson and Deitra Farr on vocals, the great Kirk Fletcher on guitar, and ‘Sax’ Gordon Beadle, unsurprisingly on saxophone. Also on board are drummers Silvio Berger and Lukas Knofler, Eric Bloom on trumpet and trombone, and percussionist Luis Ribeiro.
The generous 14 tracks comprise of a mix of originals and some finely chosen covers . . . all making up a heady brew of soul, blues, funk and jazz . . . and as you would expect with such fine musicians, played from the heart with no lack of expertise, but retaining a great feel and groove throughout.
The opening Billy Preston song, “All That I’ve Got” features a fine vocal from Chicago blues lady Deitra Farr and layers of Wressnig’s brilliant Hammond B3 work, which is influenced by the masters such as Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, but with his own modern twist. Just a trio of Wressnig, Schultz and Silvio Berger feature on Booker T & The MGs “Soul Dressing”, with some glorious guitar from Alex Schultz, mirroring the song’s co-writer, the great Steve Cropper.
The swinging jazzy shuffle penned by Schultz, “Double Bubble”, sees him and Kirk Fletcher on guitar, with more sparkling playing from Raphael Wressnig and the powerful drums of Berger. Next up is a highlight, a gorgeous take on the soul classic, “Go Now” – first recorded by Bessie Banks, but best known for The Moody Blues huge hit – and here with a stunning vocal from soul/blues singer, Tad Robinson, with Sax Gordon on tenor and baritone saxophone, and trumpet from Eric Bloom.
Don Nix’s “Same Old Blues”, a staple of the late, great Freddie King, is presented here in an instrumental form, with again just a trio, and boasts immaculate performances from both Wressnig and particularly Schultz, whose guitar work here is as sharp as it comes. Deitra Farr joins in the party again on the big Ashford & Simpson hit, “Aint Nothing Like The Real Thing”, with another classy vocal, and shares the spotlight here with Tad Robinson.
Elsewhere Booker T is revisited for the powerful organ groove of “Jellybread”, which gives Wressnig another chance to show off his considerable prowess; the trio again take on a classic in Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”, with some aching guitar lines from Alex Schultz, and the instrumental version is probably a rarity among the vast number of covers of this song.
“Soul Gift” closes with another gem, the gospel flavoured version of the uplifting Sam Cooke tune, “A Change Is Gonna Come”, with the punchy horns of Sax Gordon and Eric Bloom and yet more brilliant playing from Messrs. Wressnig and Schultz. A wonderful release, that is without doubt destined to be among the years finest . . . great players, tons of feel and groove, and a total joy!