Contemporary Jazz

Ode To Stax

02 JUL 08 JONATHAN WIDRAN

Currently on tour with the perennial urban jazz extravaganza Guitars & Saxes for the second year in a row, saxman Gerald Albright celebrates two key anniversaries a year late with the release of his on-fire, classic funk and soul-kissed second Peak album Sax For Stax.

Last year marked two decades since he burst onto the contemporary urban jazz scene with his debut Just Between Us. Last year was also when Stax Records, now part of the Concord Music Group, celebrated its 50th anniversary. Well, better late than never, and maybe Albright needed that extra splash of time to stack all the alto, tenor and baritone sax and flute lines on his colorful arrangement of Isaac Hayes' "Theme From 'The Men'," the disco-fied retro thumper that gets the party off to a great start.

One of the fun parts of this dynamic mixed bag of eight classics and three thematically and geographically appropriate originals ("Memphis Passion," "Walkin' Down Beale Street" with Kirk Whalum and "WC Handy Hop") is hearing songs we've heard a million times jazzed and sassed up better than ever -- "Knock On Wood," "Respect Yourself" and "Never Can Say Goodbye."

Say what? Yep, check your history. Hayes' cover hit the Top 5 just as the Jackson 5 were hitting the top of the R&B charts with it in 1971! The slightly less familiar songs like "Cheaper To Keep Her," "Who's Making Love?" and "I Stand Accused" will hopefully inspire some thoughtful treasure hunting through the vast history of Stax.