Levy’s Wild Kingdom – Voodoo Boogaloo
Wild Kingdom is an irrepressible group mixing jazz, blues, funk,
Latin and soul music in a heady brew that really grooves. Multi-instrumentalist
Levy, whose resume includes stints with Albert and BB King, Charles
Brown, Roomful of Blues, Ronnie Earl, Charles Earland, The Wild
Magnolias and Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, brings all his
experience to the fore on Voodoo Boogaloo,
playing Hammond B-3 organ, piano, vibes, basses, and a variety
of electronic keyboards, in addition to composing and arranging
all the music on the date. Joined by Wild Kingdom long-time regulars
Melvin Sparks, the father of acid jazz, and jam band master saxist
Karl Denson, Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom lets loose with some of the
most soulful music on the planet today.
Organ Colossus is a funky jungle strutting
feature for Levy’s B-3, clavinet and electric bass and “Sax”
Gordon’s tenor with the Wild Kingdom percussion section
of Adrome “Acidman” MacHine’s drums, Yahuba
Garcia’s congas, and Russ Lawton’s bells all cooking
up a storm. The music is reminiscent of the classic R & B
of Booker T and the MG’s, the sixties soul of Stevie Wonder,
the electrifying black rock of Sly and the Family Stone and the
AfroPop of Manu Dibango all at the same time.
Boogaloo showcases Levy’s vibes on a Latin
line in the Cal Tjader tradition that’s jazzed up with a
swinging Milestones-inspired bridge. Garcia’s timbales
and congas and Lawton’s percussion spice up the mix with
some salsa Picante, while Karl Denson soars on flute over Gordon’s
beefy baritone sax. Melvin Sparks lets fly with a classic guitar
solo, quoting Moanin’, Tequila, and Softly
As A Morning Sunrise, backed by Levy’s relentlessly
Drum and bass
open up the soulful ballad Love Retoined
with Jeff Lockhart’s guitar sharing the spotlight with Levy’s
organ and electric piano. Shades of Isaac Hayes, meets Lonnie
Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes.
Save Yo’seff is jazzy New Orleans styled rhythm
and blues with “Sax” Gordon blowing shotgun tenor
over “Acidman” MacHine’s funky beat, bolstered
by Lawton’s tambourine. Levy settles into a comfortable
Big Easy groove and stays right there, allowing Lockhart to get
down with some great guitar gumbo.
Spy On The Fly is his take off on sixties’
Quincy Jones cop show soundtracks, complete with sirens, string
synthesizers and smokin’ Sax. The leader’s busy hands
stay full on this one, soloing on vibes and B-3 while wielding
his full arsenal of keyboards in the background.
congas and Lawton’s tambourine set up Levy’s organ
and MacHine’s traps for another Nawlins outing on the bluesy
Spank! Denson and Gordon, on tenor
and baritone, are one fierce horn section, riffing away the day,
before Denson steps out front for a vicious solo. Levy mixes things
up on organ, clavinet and the Korg MS-20 for a rockin’ good
Side West is a pretty jazz line executed with finesse
by Denson on flute with Levy on bass and keys and Lawton’s
insistent tambourine pushing the percussion section. Sparks shows
his stuff with a gutsy solo before Denson takes it to another
level with an extended flute flight. Levy gets into the act with
some jazzy organ licks before letting Sparks fade it out.
The date ends
with Memphis Mem’ries. Levy puts
his electric and acoustic pianos up front on this one with Denson
backing him on alto and tenor in the sax section. Special guest
Jerry Portnoy, veteran of the Muddy Waters Blues Band and sideman
with guitar giant Eric Clapton blows some mean blues harmonica,
at times sounding like a lazy Tennessee freight train, before
Denson steps out front with some fat tenor. Levy winds the proceedings
down with some mellow vibes and keyboards.
Boogaloo is truly an exemplary excursion into Ron
Levy’s Wild Kingdom. It’s a place where people can
party on the timeless sounds of funky jazz and soulful blues as
they groove into tomorrow.
thinkin' this must be funk & groove month... we've already
gotten quite a few CD's reviewed that feature really upbeat funk-based
music... & this h'yar "Boogaloo" won't let you down.
Ron's a multi-instrumentalist beyond th' normal reach of that
word... he jus' KICKZ on th' opener, "Organ Colossus",
with some superb B-3... then he pulls out some vibes on th' title
track & makes us think we're back in th' late '60's with Cal
Tjader. For ol' jazz/phunsters like me, it doesn't GET any better
than this. Th' whole album will lift yer' spirits to new highs,
& th' group (far too large to catalog here) definitely lives
up to th' "Wild Kingdom" image! There are some heavy
Latin rhythms in addition to th' more recognizable funk pieces,
& that Latino sound is totally authentic & energetic.
Whether you're a "party animal" who just needs somethin'
to "shake it" to, or a serious connoisseur of jazz with
intestinal fortitude, you won't be able to do without this fantastic
album. The organ sounds (alone) are worth the purchase price!
This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for listeners
of all persuasions, though particularly for those enthralled with
"down-home" funk that just won't quit!"
Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj
Zzaj Productions &
entire album commands the listener’s attention, making you
want to get up and shake something!..." (click
here for the full review)
"VooDoo Boogaloo is AMAZING! Every track is a home run. The
grooves, the production, the playing - friggin' stupendous. I'll
be using every song on the album in The
Groove Boutique. Mucho kudos on an astoundingly slammin' achievement!!!"
Rafe Gomez, The Groove
"Some very hip funk here! Levy's best since Zim
- Bob Porter, WBGO-FM, DJ, writer
Supervisor of many 70's soul jazz classics on Prestige records
"RLWK's last Cd, After Midnight
Grooves was a slow satiny smooth burn for dancin'
and romancin'. VOODOO BOOGALOO is a full-throttle
party throw-down, as Melvin Sparks, Karl Denson, Levy and the
rest rock the house, hip, hard and funky. After
Midnight Grooves made it onto my "Top Ten Recordings
of 2004" list. I'm pleased to report that VOODOO
BOOGALOO sounds even better."
Chris M. Slawecki, Senior music editor
bass pulses, the drums groove, the organ throbs, and the guitar,
sax and flute weave in and out hypnotically. You absolutely can
not listen to 'Voodoo Boogaloo' without shaking some part of your
body. RLWK serves up a masterpiece!"
Ken Raisanen, WOAS-FM
"Great work from
a player who just keeps on getting better and better! We've really
liked organist Ron Levy's recent recordings a lot -- but somehow,
this one really tops the bunch -- and comes across with a lean,
mean, and focused sound that's soulfully groove-heavy all the
way through! There's a style here that's a bit like that of Johnny
Hammond in the early 70s -- a tight control of the organ keys
that fuses wonderfully into the funky work of the rhythm section.
And as on a few of his other recent sets, Ron's working here with
some really heavyweight support from guitarist Melvin Sparks and
saxman Karl Denson. Titles include "Spank", "Wes
Side West", "Spy On The Fly", "Organ Colossus",
and "Voodoo Boogaloo"."
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