Jim Koeppel – RSVP To Paradise
5 songs – 22 minutes
To borrow from the lexicon of vinyl, Jim Koeppel’s third release, RSVP To Paradise, is an EP rather than an LP. The five songs check in at only 22 minutes, but they are a very impressive five songs.
Koeppel has pulled together a top drawer band to support him on RSVP. Koeppel himself contributes guitars and vocals, backed by Tennyson Stephens on piano, Welton Gite on bass, James Gadson on drums, Ron Haynes on trumpet, Rajiv Halim on tenor sax and Norman Palm on trombone. In addition, the mighty Billy Branch lays down some typically powerful harmonica on two tracks, while Gene “Daddy G” Barge and John Christy contribute lusty tenor sax and Hammond B3 organ to the funky title track.
The album kicks off with the lazy shuffle of “Johnny’s In the Doghouse” (a re-recording of a song of the same title from Koeppel’s 1998 debut album?), which features some magnificent harp from Branch over the top of a clever 32-bar chord structure.
“Hurry Sundown” is a slow soul-blues song with lovely horns and a fine vocal performance by Koeppel. The title track moves into funk-blues territory with Gile’s bang-on bass riff having echoes of the riff from Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” in its circularity and drive. Barge’s sax solo is a particular highlight although there is also some superb guitar from Koeppel, especially on the outtro.
The jazzy “Every Night Without Warning” has an amusingly upbeat backing for what is a pretty sad lyric, with very nice piano from Stephens. RSVP then closes with the upbeat shuffle of “Let Me Tell You” with a memorable stop-chorus structure and another belting solo from Branch.
Koeppel wrote three of the tracks and co-wrote the title track with the great Cash McCall. McCall also contributed “Hurry Sundown” as well as co-producing the release with Koeppel.
The songs on RSVP To Paradise are well-written, well-played and very much leave the listener wanting more. Which rather begs the question as to why release an EP at all? In the days of vinyl, it was very expensive to produce a full length album and an EP served an excellent purpose in demonstrating a band’s range and repertoire without also crippling it financially. In the last few years, however, the quality of recording technology has increased as dramatically as the costs of that technology have dropped. One can see the point of an EP to hand out to bar-owners in order to win gigs, but it is harder to understand the point of issuing an EP more broadly. There is clearly a lot of talent here – but let’s hope the next release is a full–length album.
In the meantime, if you like your blues cut with just a hint of modern country, pop, soul and funk, then you should investigate Jim Koeppel.