Review: Raphael Wressnig – Soul Gumbo

Posted on: Friday, Jan 16, 2015


Raphael Wressnig – Soul Gumbo

(Pepper Cake: PEC 2094-2)

For his follow-up to the superb “Soul Gift”, the Austrian Hammond B-3 groove ‘king’ Raphael Wressnig has made the trip to New Orleans to produce the equally enjoyable “Soul Gumbo” . . . nine cuts of blues, r&b, funk and soul in the company of such household names as Alex Schultz, George Porter Jr, Stanton Moore, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, Jon Cleary, Larry Garner, Tad Robinson and more . . . wow, that is some cast list!

“Soul Gumbo” captures the feel and ‘grease’ of New Orleans over its 52:47 and is a joy from start to finish. Proceedings open with the delightful funk of “Chasing Rainbows” – the first of two guest vocals from the great Tad Robinson – and also highlights Alex Schultz’s always tasteful guitar and Wressnig’s own super Hammond B-3 playing, which is inspired by the past masters but has its own modern edge and feel.

The following “Soulful Strut” is very much in the territory of The Meters and is driven by the horns of Eric Bloom (trumpet), ‘Sax’ Gordon Beadle (tenor and baritone saxophone) and Max The Sax (alto saxophone), with particularly impressive trumpet solo by Bloom.

Veteran New Orleans legend Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington takes a vocal and contributes stinging lead guitar to his own “I Want To Know”,  which never overstays its welcome at a leisurely 7:10 on a big slab of ‘Crescent City’ soul. Again massive contributions from the players on board, with again Raphael Wressnig’s brilliant Hammond B-3 work and noteable contributions from Jimmy Carpenter on saxophone; and the stellar, absolutely unbeatable rhythm section of George Porter Jr and Stanton Moore, on drums and bass respectively.

Our very own Jon Cleary – now so established as part of the New Orleans music hierachy – gives a trademark class performance on his song “Sometimes I Wonder”, a gorgeous sweet soulful tune, on which he contributes lead vocals, grand piano, Wurlitzer and acoustic guitar!

Let’s be honest, we are being spoiled on this album, and the quality continues with the standout “Room With A View”, a Lowell Fulson/Billy Vera blues, that sees Tad Robinson back on the microphone, delivering a ‘smooth as silk’ vocal with Alex Schultz and Raphael Wressnig both supplying dynamite solos, with the brass of Jimmy Carpenter, Antonio Gambrell (trumpet) and Werner Wurm (trombone) right ‘on the money’.

Wressnig salutes fellow native of Vienna, Joe Zawinul, on the jazz funk instrumental “Slivovitz For Joe”, that sees just him, Alex Schultz, Stanton Moore and Harry Sokal (tenor saxophone) possibly tearing it up! “Soul Jazz Shuffle” is pretty self-explanatory, and features Craig Handy on tenor saxophone as Wressnig and crew again stretch out over 8:07, again with the tune hitting a marvellous groove that goes with the turf of a New Orleans recording.

Frequent UK and Eurpean visitor, Baton Rouge bluesman Larry Garner – a great singer, guitarist and writer – contributes his own song, “Nobody Special” to round off “Soul Gumbo” – a lovely mellow, soulful blues from the man whose band once featured a young Raphael Wressnig . . . it’s a fitting end to a most highly recommended and very classy recording.


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