Back in the '80s, the Uptown Horns — which included former Michigander Crispin Cioe — first became a sensation in New York City. Primarily a rock 'n' roll brass section, the group, over the years, went on to play with everyone from James Brown, Ray Charles and B.B. King to Tom Waits, Lou Reed, R.E.M. and the B-52's. It would appear that the Motor City Horns — a Detroit horn section made up of trombonist John Rutherford (who founded the group and produced this debut disc), trumpeter Marc Byerly, trumpeter Bob Jensen and saxophonist Keith Kaminski — are striving to fulfill that same role in our fair city, even though the group may be a bit more musically eclectic than its New York counterpart.
And eclecticism is certainly the operative word on Local Boys, as the quartet — which is probably best known for playing behind Bob Seger on his most recent major tour — drift back and forth between jazz, blues, funk, hard rock and even hip hop over 15 cuts. Seger doesn't show up for the festivities, but the Horns boys are joined on the debut disc by more than 48 musicians from the metro Detroit area, many of whom have been backed by the quartet in the past.
If the CD has any flaw, it may be that it's a little too eclectic (and lengthy at 60 minutes-plus), since the Horns, to recycle an old cliché, seem to have thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the mix here. There are even several instances that approach Holiday Inn lounge territory (no names to protect the innocent). But there are still enough moments that really cook to make the experiment a worthwhile endeavor, including a stunning, groove-filled version of "Cadillac Blues," with the great Johnnie Bassett on lead vocals; and a hip-hoppin' hybrid titled "The Introduction," featuring Kid Rock cohort Paradime and Savallace doing the rapping ... and doing it very well.
The eclecticism is notable from the get-go, as the horns on the opening title track (featuring Brian VanderArk from the Verve Pipe on lead vocals) sound not unlike a professional horn section performing an overture for a Broadway musical (that's a compliment, by the way) before the song goes into a synth-pop mode. The second cut, "Smoke & Mirrors," meanwhile, delves a little more into "psychedelic" and melodic experimental territory, featuring an intro that might not sound out of place on a Talking Heads LP.
Other notables making appearances here include Detroit "Queen of the Blues" Alberta Adams, funk-rockers the Howling Diablos and jazzateers Hot Club of Detroit. It's surprising that while they do cover Seger's "Lucifer," there isn't more straight-ahead rock 'n' roll featured from a band that supported the always-straight-ahead Bob on the road. Nevertheless, this CD serves as a welcome blast of musical city, civic and community pride at a time when Detroit can surely use it. In fact, the album concludes with a song titled — what else? — "Detroit."
Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to [email protected].