At Home – Slow Poke
Palmetto Records 2126
In the late '90s, Slow Poke made a big splash. Then they disappeared. The New York-based quartet cut two albums of groovy, heartfelt instrumentals, made their share of midnight Tonic hits, and promptly went the way of the dinosaur. But now they’re back.
Sort of. The Pokes, featuring former Lounge Lizards Michael Blake (tenor sax), Dave Tronzo (slide guitar) and Tony Scherr (bass), plus drummer Kenny Wollesen (John Zorn, Tom Waits, Sean Lennon), have remastered their self-released debut from 1998 and put it out on Palmetto Records (home to Marty Ehrlich, Will Bernard, Dr. Lonnie Smith and more). At Home, replete with two bonus tracks, has never sounded better.
Simply put, the disc fits like your favorite sweatshirt; the music is warm, unhurried, and welcoming. And real funky. At Home opens with a slow-as-hell take on Eddie Harris’ “Listen Here” that finds the group smiling and relaxed (one would assume), riffing to their collective heart’s content on some back porch somewhere (or at Scherr’s Brooklyn apartment, where At Home was recorded). “Afro Blake” frolics through the fields of 6/8 time before settling on a groove in four and a simple, haunting horn line. Neil Young’s “Harvest” rears its pretty head, too, for a chance to talk with Tronzo’s tender, no-slide playing and Blake’s breathy tenor sax (think Stan Getz).
But the real treasures here are the two previously unreleased cuts (why were they left off?). Blake’s “Make Out Machine” is a soul stirrer just asking for a little Sam Cooke on top (Blake’s sax work is hardly a consolation prize, though) and “The Saturday Option,” originally by the band Lambchop, is a slow-burning country/jazz concoction that should leave you smiling for hours. These cats have gone to bigger things with people like Bill Frisell, Sex Mob, Ben Allison and Club d’Elf, but don’t sleep on Slow Poke. You’ll regret it.