A hometown jazz scene favorite and familiar face Mark Rapp teams up with Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson to give us Natural History. The first release from this duo’s group “The Warmdaddy-Rapp Quartet” features Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson on alto, Mark Rapp on trumpet, David Ellington on keyboard and last but not least Chris Burroughs on drums. This group of well-respected musicians brings us a fresh taste of jazz that not only sounds familiar to our hearts but new to our ears. Don’t let the size of the cd fool you – it contains six powerhouse tracks of which any of them could have become the leading take of the album. Blending the boogalo inspired style that brought the duo together with downhome blues and head chart jazz, Natural History is creating new jazz in bed with the old.
The album starts with, you guessed it, “Natural History”, the title track. It begins with a clapping and old timey chanting of natural history until Chris Burroughs brings us in with one of the most original yet classic drum intros to grace a record. Once he has had his kicks, we hear the head of the chart in a very Cannonball Adderley way which creates a familiar warm feeling. That chart sets the stage for the rest of the album. Good old fashioned fun.
“Stroke Blues” is one of the two truly blues charts on the cd and there is nothing more laid back and relaxing like our man David Ellington on organ. The rhythm, blues and soul in this song are palpable and it can take you to church or to the jazz club. Whichever you are visiting, the groove never stops and keeps trucking along, gaining force yet always relaxed. “Dem Dirty Blues”, the second of the blues charts is last on the record and I feel that is emotionally appropriate. The groove gives me the sense of winding down after a long day’s work, all dirty and just ready to go to sleep. For me, this was my favorite track and reminds me of classic New Orleans dirty blues – which if you are familiar with each member of the group, this is their wheelhouse and it shows. The piece strums along filling up the room with blues like fog filling up a window of an old Oldsmobile after a nighttime summer rain storm. You want to sink in and let the blues over take you.
“Rosie Posie” and “Just Swing” are well crafted big band charts condensed down for the quartet that give new life and rhythm to the traditional swing. Don’t let the size of the group fool you – the big band swing is alive and well in the heart of this group and it shows in the way they pass the solos throughout the charts.
I saved “Pati” for last because it is the most unique of the songs. Right out of the gate, it shows that Afro-Cuban roots that the duo Warmdaddy and Mark are known for from the last time they teamed up. Regardless if it starts to shift towards swing or even fusion, it keeps that samba groove constant. This chart is number four on the cd and that is the best placement because it breaks up the record nicely, dividing the swing and blues songs from one another. It creates its own musical intermission while never actually stopping the music.
Overall the soul, jazz and blues feel of this group’s album is on point and deserves a listen from anyone who yearns for new jazz but loves a bit of nostalgia. The blend of modern sounds and timbre with classic blues and jazz standards mixed with a little Cuban-afro is a sound I want to hear lots more of from musicians. From the expert craftsmanship of each chart or the pure genius of the order on which they are laid down this is a fantastic first album. This first cd was long anticipated and hopefully we don’t have to wait long for the next.