Three decades since it was established, by leader and alto player Derek Nash, the UK's Sax Appeal still retains the fire and enthusiasm of youth—and a five saxophone front line that's more than capable of translating that energy into a big, bold, crowd-pleasing sound. Funkerdeen is the band's sixth album. As the title suggests, funk is to the fore, but there's also more than a hint of Latin, smooth '80s soul-jazz and a little bit of New Orleans.
Nash wrote the tunes—some of which he's recorded with different ensembles—and produced the album at his own Clowns Pocket Studios. He's is in fine form throughout. His fellow musicians are among some of the most experienced and able players in the UK: they meet every challenge offered by Nash's compositions and take their solo opportunities in suitably classy style.
"Funkerdeen" (inspired by Nash's stay in a "funky" Aberdeen hotel) is a mid-tempo slab of punchy funk with a lovely tenor solo from Brandon Allen. Jools Holland (Nash's bandleader in the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra) and Alan Barnes, two of the UK's best-loved musicians, join the band for the storming 12-bar "Sticky Finger Boogie." The tune features no less than six solos, including Holland's trademark good-time boogie piano and Barnes' light and flighty alto.
Barnes also guests on "Blue For You," this time on baritone. There's a big band, Basie-ish, feel to this one. The ensemble playing from the sax section is smooth as silk, the baritone solos—from Barnes and Bob McKay—are rich and welcoming, as are the solos from Pete Adams' piano and Gary Plumley's tenor. It's a warm, cosy, blanket of a tune.
"Walkin' On Air" brings a gentler funk to the proceedings—a slinky groove courtesy of bassist Phil Scragg, drummer Mike Bradley and Adams' understated electric keyboard. Album closer "Voodoo Rex"—dedicated to Nash's alto sax and its maker, Steve Goodson and featuring a slick duet between Nash and Bradley—has a New Orleans feel that ensures the feel-good factor remains until the end - Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz