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Published: 2003/10/29
by Mike Greenhaus

self-titled – JB and the Rebellion


Oddly enough, Kid Rock predicted this JB and the Rebellion release back in
2001. Dissecting the differences among country, rap, and rock in the IMAX
film All Access, Kid Rock mused that one day the later style would
adopt hip-hop's communal feel, with established artists making guests spots
in their emerging peers' projects.

Proving Kid Rock's prophecy, JB and the Rebellion is an alumni reunion of
jazz-funk's perennial players. Organized by tenor saxophonist Joel Bowers,
the disc boasts spots from scene heavyweights like organist Robert Walter
(Greyboy Allstars, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe), bassist Chris Stillwell
(Greyboy Allstars, KDTU), congoist Chuck Prade (Robert Walter's 20th
Congress, Black Eyed Peas) and Addison Groove Project and Soulive
collaborator Mister Rourke, among others. Recruiting a rock solid backing of
Hammond organist Keith Ladinsky, guitarist Rodney "B.R" Million and drummer
Aaron Redfield, Bowers also lays a firm foundation for his album before
layering the disc with talented friends and neighbors. Staples in some of
the groove community's strongest live acts, Bowers' recruits have helped set
jazz-funk within its current schooled-yet-slinky, context. But like Al
Koopers famed Supersession, JB and the Rebellion wobbles while
balancing interplay between a few core members and a house party of guest
players, at times struggling to narrow its scope.

An experienced saxophonist, Bowers already has carved his own name, through
classes at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and guest spots
with jazz-funk buzz acts like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Garage a Trois,
Robert Walter's 20th Congress, Maceo Parker, and Karl Denson. Clearly,
Bowers has credentials and a sense of community, but he also makes Kid Rock
eat his words: at times Bowers borrows a but too much from his predecessors
and JB and the Rebellion sounds like any other studio album by
conservatory-trained jazz-funk stalwarts. Allowing his more well known
counterparts ample chances to solo throughout his sophomore disc, Bowers
uses his academically accredited lungs to add emphasis and drive the discs
heart, but never projects his own voice.

Perhaps a major cause of Bowers' curator role is that he only authored one
track on his disc, "Soul Searchin'." Letting Ladinsky contribute the lead
off "Yo' Mama," "Hot Legs," and "Indecision" Bowers removes himself from the
position of creator, perhaps placing too mush emphasis on his friends'
previous accomplishments. Rounding out the disc with Charles Earland's
"Black Talk" and a few over meandering jams, plus Mister Rourke's brief
"Interlude," Bowers looses some of the originality he could have created
with so many talents on hand.

Bred in basements and bars, funk music, even in its watered down northeast
state, is created for live performance. This predicament makes recording a
studio album particularly challenging. To his credit, Bowers isn't stunted
in the studio, sweating energy and playing a loose, but guided, medley of
songs. Recorded over a two night stand, JB and the Rebellion also
feels like a genuine jam session, evoking the communal feel that makes such
a heavy-handed collaboration an asset, not a cover-up.

Though jazz and funk are the prime ingredients used throughout JB and the
Rebellion, the disc has a strong rock and roll underbelly. Drawing from that
genre more in energy than style, rock and roll drives the quick, raw pulse
of the disc, helping to unsand several players' academic edges. Drummer
Redfield and guest percussionists Chuck Prada and Aaron Redfield keep the
album at a running pace, turntablists Axel Foley and Mister Rourke able room
to scratch and spin. Channeling their energy into the confines of a studio,
Bowers recreates the communal power jams he often participates in and
harnesses that aggressive rock and roll sensibility.

Fun, sure, but JB and the Rebellion lacks the edge needed to break out of
its firm jazz-funk mold. Sure, Walters rips a crunching solo on The Sweet
Life, while Rourke and Foley duel on "Yo'Mama." Its fun that the horn
player tires out the maestro sax attachment on "The Sweet Life" and
Indecision. But with so many familiar sounds packed into seven tracks, JB
and the Rebellion loses its unique voice. Though Bowers has a distinct
saxophone style, but he often seems to staple his notes on top of generic
jazz-funk jams.

JB and the Rebellion is an enjoyable listen. Its groove is energetic and,
though somewhat formulaic, its guest solos are sublime. Perhaps a stepping
stone some for future community projects, JB and the Rebellion is packed
with great ideas. Unfortunately, many of them were copyrighted years ago.

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