|Nat Simpkins-Saxophone, Eric
Johnson-Guitar, Dave Braham-Organ,
Brooks III-Drums, Ralph Dorsey-Congas
"Simpkins is one of the
few modern-day practitioners of the ‘Texas tenor’' sound, a
swaggering big-toned style that stirs R&B grit with down-home
- Bob Young, Boston Herald
"Simpkins’ sax allegiance is steeped in the Texas
tenor tradition and it is obvious he's listened long and hard to ‘Fathead’
Newman, Illinois Jacquet, Clifford Scott and others."
- Larry Hollis, Cadence
In 1992 Nat Simpkins recorded his first CD as a
leader, "Just Friends," which Houston Person produced for Muse
Records. Simpkins brought in two of his mentors on sax to play with him
on his debut: Buddy Tate and Houston with the rhythm section of Major
Holley, Stan Hope, and Grady Tate. Simpkins more than held his own on
this great album that presented three generations of "Texas
Tenors". The follow-up CD, "Cookin With Some Barbeque,"
is a classic tenor and organ date featuring Nat with organist Gloria
Coleman, guitarist Russell Malone, and drummer Cecil Brooks III.
When just friends get together and cook up some barbeque
they usually come up with some "Spare Ribs". For Simpkins'
latest CD, Cecil Brooks brought in fellow bandmates from Pittsburgh,
guitarist Eric Johnson andorganist Dave Braham. This date is recorded in
the spirit of classic soul jazz albums by Jimmy Smith with Stanley
Turrentine and Jack McDuff with Houston Person and Gene Ammons, updated
with some 90's technology and contemporary song material. Except for one
Vernon Duke standard, Simpkins wrote all the tunes. His originals fill
the bill perfectly.
"Spare Ribs" is a well planned barbeque. The
tunes are nicely arranged and they all cook! "Muchacho" is a
32 bar Latin tune reminiscent of Santana's "Evil Ways."
"Rib Joint" is a Bb shuffle in the style of Jimmy Smith.
"Slo Movin Freight" is a 6/4 down-home blues groove.
"Arnett Is Comin To Town" is a 16 bar minor blues which
features Simpkins in a Turrentine groove. Vernon Duke's beautiful ballad
"Autumn in New York" follows, then the relaxed, playful
"Calypso Gal," and the contemporary sounding "Sandys
Song" with Simpkins in a Grover Washington mood on alto.
"Gospel Truth" takes us to church with some soulful preaching
a la Jimmy McGriff. "Cleanhead Shuffle" closes the album on
just the right blue note. There is something for everybody on this one.
Nat Simpkins is ready to carry on the soulful tenor tradition.
"Spare Ribs" adds a new chapter to the soul jazz genre and
holds the promise of a long and fruitful career.