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JACKIE PAYNE/STEVE EDMONSON BAND Master Of The Game Wienerworld DGPCD110 (2010)

Jackie Payne

Jackie Payne and Steve Edmonson are well positioned to add their artistic weight to the recent reawakening of interest in American heritage music be it blues, rock & roll or as in their case Soul.

The nice thing about 'Master of the Game' is that it pushes all the emotional buttons of a bygone age while retaining a sense of the contemporary via sharp arrangements and a smooth production. Jackie might not wish to be reminded that it is 45 years since his debut 45 'Go-Go Train', but the former Johnny Otis frontman and sometime Albert Collins/Pee Wee Crayton singer still doesn't require a lot of tweaking in the mix. His expressive vocals and intimate phrasing, ranging from the smooth Bobby Bland style vibrato to flashes of Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding on several exclamatory falsetto whoops, more than compensate for an occasional guttural growl.

Indeed when guitarist Steve Edmonson adds his precise cutting edge Chicago style lines he is the perfect foil for JP but it also means there is often two sets of phrasing at play.

The result is a sharpening of melodies and a keen sense of dynamics on a range of material that shifts from classic southern Soul to horn punctuated blues. And it is the imperious Sweet Meet Horns featuring trumpeter John Middleton and tenor/alto player Carl Green, who also arranged all the parts, who alternate between pumping fills and front line solos to provide the perfect shape, colour and spark to all 13 tracks.

But 'Master of the Game' is the end product of a real road band in which all the members fully play their part, no more so than on 'A Fool Named Me' which is a slice of beautifully crafted smooth soul. And in among several memorable vocal turns Jackie stars on a cover of 'A Nickel and a Dime' bringing real feel and presence as well as a brief falsetto scream over a superb horn arrangement that is slightly mixed a little too far back.

There's more expressive phrasing and a fine Carl Green sax solo on 'Warm Rain' while not to outdone Edmonson stars on a guitar led, horn punctuated instrumental shuffle 'Cabranito'.

The band wraps things up with a beautifully judged denouement on the slow blues 'Ill Take Care of You'. It's said you can always judge a band best when they bring things down and Jackie reaches back into his early career for an extended outro rap. This is truly cool!

Soulful blues may still be a niche market and since the demise of Big Twist & The Mellow Fellows, Jackie Payne and Steve Edmonson have stepped up to the plate to become prime purveyors of soulful blues and old school R&B, in fact living history with plenty of juice in the engine.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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