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Eddie Roberts Roughneck Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Debut from funk hero and New Mastersounds guitarist Eddie Roberts. The 21st century...

Peter Marsh 2004

Eddie Roberts is guitarist with the New Mastersounds, a band of crack sessioneers who specialise in the kind of revivalist funk that's probably greatlive, but seems slightly pointless on record. This (his first solo effort) is maybe similarly dependent on the past for inspiration, but it's delivered with enough good humour, invention and vigour to soften the heart of all but the most hardened jazz snob (your humble reviewer included).

Though Roberts is undoubtedly a gifted soloist, the real strength of this album lies in the diversity ofthe writing and arranging on display.The title's aptly chosen; this is as far from smooth jazz as this kind of music gets. From the opening modal rush of the title track through to the nu-jazz dub hybrid of 'Diggin' Deeper', Roberts pushes the meters well into the red as he mixes real-time playing with bursts of samples and jumpcut editing, giving the music an immediacy and aggression that'll have you pricking up your ears and maybe even shaking the odd tailfeather or two.

Roberts' fluid, juicy guitar owes a lot to the likes of early George Benson, and by association the classic tones of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell. But he's got an attack and bite that lifts him above the copyists, as well as a penchant for more exploratory, vaguely psychedelic playing, as on his tribute to the sadly neglected Gabor Szabo ("Szabo').

There are a couple of tunes that don't come off - a cover of Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar" is a bit too, er, sugary for my tastes, and while the lounge, piano-led groove of "Every Goodbye" might lodge in your head immediately, its cut 'n' paste approach goes nowhere much, mainly due to the absence of Roberts' guitar wizardry. But that's just nit-picking. In the main, this is an unpretentious, well crafted slice of dancefloor jazz (a phrase that normally has me reaching for my Albert Ayler records). Well worth your time.

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