Rodney Jones's Soul Manifesto | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Rodney Jones's Soul Manifesto

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A reverberated baritone intones, "This is the Soul Manifesto" to open Rodney Jones's new Blue Note disc, Soul Manifesto; it might just as easily have welcomed listeners to the soul-jazz hall of fame. The guitarist gathered several soul icons for the album--from Dr. Lonnie Smith, a reconstituted legend of Blue Note's organ period of the 60s, to ageless drummer Idris "Turn This Mutha Out" Muhammad--and for the tour he's added trombonist Fred Wesley, of James Brown's most infamous brass section, the JB Horns. He's also bringing along Arthur Blythe--not primarily a soul-jazz player in the same way the others are, but an altoist with a ripe, three-dimensional tone that he applies to a combination of operatic blues and progressive jazz. Jones has recorded half a dozen other albums under his own name, but he's also spent nearly two decades on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and, after three years touring with Dizzy Gillespie, he slid effortlessly into a steady job as musical director for blues diva Ruth Brown. Alhough those gigs have made him semi-invisible to the listening audience, other musicians, and especially guitarists, widely admire his tremendous and original technique: his attack falls neatly between traditional jazz legato and a modern, almost astringent plucking, and when improvising, he tends to avoid the patterns that fall most easily on the fretboard. This band can't help but rock in the oldest, Ellingtonian sense of the word, with a loose, layered spirit to be envied by jam bands half their age--though once Jones lures in younger audience members with heavily funkified new tunes like "Groove Bone" and the title track, he's likely to ambush them with something like Mal Waldron's classic ballad "Soul Eyes." This show was moved at the last minute from Park West to a drastically smaller venue, which these guys could fill by word of mouth alone; if you want a seat, arrive early. Giant People, a San Diego band led by Karl Denson sideman Carlos Washington, opens. Saturday, October 6, 8 PM, Boulevard Cafe, 3137 W. Logan; 773-384-8600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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