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Deon Yates – School of Funk

Dec. 21, 2015

Whenever I’m in need of a serious pick-me-up, I reach for albums that get the flame going in me. Most times, that means a good, solid c-jazz album with flavor, melody, and presence. All of those elements are found in the latest project from veteran saxman Deon Yates CDDeon Yates called School of Funk. Brimming with classy runs and hooks, favoring a little of that Richard Elliot soulful bounce and even a bit of that dancing funk of Down to the Bone, but mostly displaying a complete and powerful picture of Deon Yates, this is one satisfying album.

My partiality to this album started right away as I head-bopped and finger-snapped my way through the supercharged lead track “Motor City Strut” featuring guitarist Paul Brown and a whole lot of oomph and smooth attitude.

Along with Brown, Yates recruits guitarist Nils, keyboardist Nate Harasim, trumpeter Lin Rountree, keyboardist Brian Simpson, and even some wonderful work from the late Ricky Lawson, as well as a host of other contributors. All of the ingredients necessary for a qualified classy and funky venture.

The entire album is one long narrative on how good, funky, polished jazz that’s designed to stir the soul should be approached, and who better to offer this than one who, when not recording or touring, is a featured lecturer at Macomb Community College – a renowned Michigan-based institution – on the history of jazz music in Detroit? Being quite the impressive and influential jazz figure there in his hometown and a two-time Emmy Award nominee, I think it’s safe to say he knows his way around this subject of jazz. His music certainly serves as further confirmation.

As for my faves and recommendations, each and every track has form, character, and appeal – from the lead track straight through to the sweet and charming finale “For Hosea.” So, don’t cheat yourself — drink in all of this album slowly, savoring it like fine wine. Your musical palate will thank you. – Ronald Jackson