Luther Kent and Trick Bag
Renegade 012
Luther Kent used to sing for one incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears, but he shouldn't tout that; Live is exponentially better than anything that band ever did. Kent has a deep, brawny voice that's as Southern as the Mississippi and similarly forceful.

But just as responsible for this set's success is the slam-bang horn section comprising tenor and baritone sax, trombone and no fewer than three trumpets. With this much brass you run risks, because if trumpeters are out of kilter it sounds worse than if reedmen are. But this aggregate's on the dot on arrangements by Charlie Brent (heard mostly on guitar here), who plainly has had plenty of experience writing for large groups.

There are three Willie Dixon warhorses ("I Can't Quit You Baby," "29 Ways" and "Hoochie Coochie Man"), but Brent's charts make them sound strong and fresh, especially the latter, with a killer horn arrangement that calls to mind the evocative "crime jazz" the Stanley Wilson Orchestra used to do for TV shows like "M Squad."

Pity Brent's not as mighty with guitar as with pen; his playing is FXed to distraction. Regarding the cookin' "29 Ways" -- should you ever need to exemplify what is meant by "New Orleans drumming," point to what (the late) John Thomassie does here. It's brisk, busy drum work that epitomizes the N'Awlins style and helps make this cut a real rocker.

New Orleans' own Earl King wrote "Trick Bag" that gets a rousing reading here, as does Latimore's soul-circuit staple "Let's Straighten It Out." There are not many transcendent solos, but this band sure excels as an ensemble. Sound-wise, it's quite good, but some fans of live recordings would say the zest factor would've been upped if the audience didn't sound so remote in the mix.

-- Tim Schuller

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Boulder, CO, USA.