Friday, October 19, 2018

Grand Marquis Brighter Days

Grand Marquis
Brighter Days
Grand Marquis Music

Formed in the 1990's in Kansas City as a jump blues and swing band, Grand Marquis has established themselves as an institution in the region while morphing perhaps into a band mixing soul, New Orleans grooves and pop flavors that might be (as a reference point) likened to Blood, Sweat and Tears crossed with New Orleans brass bands. I say that because this writer would not describe this new release, their eighth album, as a blues album. But the description is not a comment on the merits of Grand Marquis or this recording.

The driving six-piece horn band is comprised of Bryan Redmond (lead vocals and saxophones); Chad Boydston (backing vocals and trumpet), Trevor Turla (backing vocals and trombone), Ryan Wurtz (guitar), Ben Ruth (backing vocals, uptown bass, and sousaphone), and Fritz Hutchinson (backing vocals and drums). While the publicity for this release likens Redmond's vocals to David Clayton-Thomas, I found his phrasing more in the vein of Van Morrison, although not quite as limber a singer. Still, there is much to enjoy whether in the opening "Another Love," or the title track with a strong trumpet solo as well as some shattering slide guitar. This is a well-rehearsed band with tight horns and a solid rhythm section.

A couple of songs take us musically to New Orleans with the Mardi Gras second-line feel of "Night Shift," where Redmond sings about not worrying about working on the night shift with the horns each strongly soloing as well as letting loose with some New Orleans polyphony with Ruth on sousaphone. After Boydston's strident trumpet, Redmond follows with some twisting clarinet and later some strong tailgating trombone from Turla. More New Orleans flavor can be heard on the brass band styled funk instrumental "It Don't Matter," where all the horns and Wurtz get to solo (Redmond wails on the baritone sax on this). "Ain't No Spark" is a funky number with a call and response between Redmond and the rest of the band with another burly trombone solo by Turla.

There is a reflective interpretation of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross," with a solid Redmond vocal and a nice arrangement of the brass to help frame his singing here (along with an imaginative trombone solo). A spirited take on the traditional "Down By the Riverside," is given a solid New Orleans brass band styled setting, taking out this very intriguing and entertaining recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have a few minor changes to the review that appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 380). Here is a recent performance of "Night Shift."

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