Mention the name Bennie Maupin to a certain generation of jazz fans and you’re likely to get a raised eyebrow followed by a sharp intake of breath. He’s pure class.
His baritone, soprano and tenor sax work on seminal Miles Davis albums Bitches Brew and Big Fun as well as Herbie Hancock‘s Head Hunters would be more than enough for any jazz career, though unfortunately he’s made less of an impression as a solo artist, to date releasing just four albums as leader.
Vocalion have remastered and re-released the middle two solo albums, Slow Traffic To The Right and Moonscapes, from 1977 and 1978 respectively, and put them together in a very attractive single-CD package.
A quick glance at the personnel gives a good indication of the high-class jazz/funk with a spiritual/modal bent on offer: Patrice Rushen, Bobby Lyle and Patrick Gleeson on keys, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Harvey Mason on drums, Mike Sembello on guitar and Paul Jackson/Abe Laboriel on bass.
Rushen is frequently the star of the show, particularly on the opener ‘It Remains To Be Seen’ where she lays down some delicious clavinet and a glittering piano solo which almost matches Herbie Hancock or Kenny Kirkland in full flight.
Maupin is mixed right to the front, loud and proud, and delivers a majestic, snake-charming soprano solo on ‘Just Give It Some Time’ (first heard by this writer on Steve Edwards’ excellent Jazz FM show circa 1990) and some beguiling baritone and sermonising tenor on ‘Water Torture’. Only ‘You Know The Deal’ disappoints with its rather drab wah-wah bass vamp and overcooked Blackbird McKnight guitar solo.
Very much in the slipstream of such seminal Herbie Hancock albums as Secrets and Man-child, this is irresistible stuff for fans of spacey jazz/funk.