Raphael Wressnig & Igor Prado – Groove & Good Times | Album Review

Raphael Wressnig & Igor Prado – Groove & Good Times

Pepper Cake Records PEC 2137-2


10 songs – 44 minutes

Search the world over and you’ll have a hard time finding too more funky musicians than Austria-born keyboard player Raphael Wressnig and Brazilian-born guitarist Igor Prado, and they simply smoke from the jump in this set of high-voltage blues and roots certain to keep you moving and grooving throughout.

A master of the Hammond B-3, Wressnig is a five-time Downbeat magazine nominee for best organ player of the year, delivering his own unique sound – a greasy fusion of soul, New Orleans funk, jazz and blues as leader of The Soul Gift Band. He’s released about 20 albums under his own name and frequently collaborates with top names from the U.S. music scene, including guitarist Alex Schultz and Big Easy talents Jon Cleary, George Porter Jr. and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.

A jump blues stylist who plays the six-string upside down and backwards, like Wressnig, Prado has been a fixture on the international blues scene for the better part of 25 years. Influenced by Albert King, Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, he divides his time between his homeland and the West Coast, where he’s been a member of the Mannish Boys and recorded with Curtis Salgado, Tia Carroll, Aki Kumar, Lynwood Slim, Whitney Shay and others.

He’s also the first South American to earn a Blues Music Award nomination thanks to his 2015 release, Way Down South, and to hit the No. 1 spot on Living Blues’ radio charts, too. This is his second disc with Wressnig — a follow-up to The Soul Connection, also on the Pepper Cake imprint in 2016.

Groove & Good Times delivers a big sound despite being a stripped-down affair. The duo are joined throughout by Prado’s brother, Yuri, on bass and percussion with a guest appearance from Brazilian vocalist Jenni Rocha who joins Igor for a duet. Primarily an instrumental set, Raphael handles vocals on one cut, too.

Bill Withers’ “Kissing My Love” opens the action and cooks from the jump thanks to an arrangement that features a percussive rhythm pattern that puts a completely different spin on the original. Both Wressnig and Prado glide throughout slightly behind the beat. The Isley Brothers’ “I Know Who You Been Socking It To” follows with similar treatment that turns the 1969 B-side release into something entirely new.

The Meters’ 1977 B-side, “No More Okey Doke,” undergoes contemporary refreshment before Raphael takes to the mic a pleasingly funky reworking of James Brown’s “Hot Pants” that’s retitled “Blues & Pants” before Igor and Jenni reinvent Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “You Bring Love.” And both Junior Wells and Bobby “Blue” Bland would be beaming if they heard Wressnig and Prado’s versions of “Snatch It Back and Hold It” and “Ain’t No Love (in the Heart of the City),” which follow.

Wressnig rips and runs across the 88s for “Shrimp Daddy,” the only original tune in the set, before Reese Wynans’ “Crossfire” and Bob Marley’s “Soul Shakedown Party” bring the disc to a pleasing close.

If you love the classic soul-blues of keyboard giants Jimmy Smith, Ray Charles, Groove Holmes, Billy Preston and others, you’ll adore this one. Sure, there are nine covers here, but lend an ear because none of them has ever sounded like this before!

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