Zbonics are a loosely-convened jazz super group. They were put together by top drummer Zak Naylor (Fred Wesley, John Scofield, Reuben Wilson etc) and amongst the line up are saxophonist Karl Denson and legendary guitarist Melvin Spark who died in 2011 while the album’s recording was in progress. Other featured musicians include organist Adam Scone, pianist Robert Walter, bassist Brian Jordan and trumpeter Chris Littlefield. The vocals are handled by the now ubiquitous Gregory Porter and given his current status the five tracks on which he features will form this album’s USP. Recording details are sketchy, buy my guess is that Porter’s contributions come from his pre-fame days… the time when he was a jobbing jazz singer, picking up gigs and sessions as and when. That, though, doesn’t make his contributions any less worthwhile. That magnificent voice is what matters and he’s in tremendous form on ‘Nowhere To Run’ (not the Motown chestnut, by the way), ‘Issues Of Life’, ‘She’s Gone’ (no, not the Hall & Oates classic), ‘Just In Time’ and the quite remarkable ‘She Danced Across the Floor’. All are redolent of Norman Whitfield era Temptations…. plenty of wah wah guitar, electro-phasing, spacey horns and pulsing bass lines. ‘She Danced’, in particular, stands out.
The psychedelic-soul soundscape of the Porter quintet is totally in tune with the flavour of the instrumental tracks. Musically they are a hybrid of free jazz, soul-jazz and blaxploitation … all very, very 70s and best summed up in the opener, ‘Soul Good’ which features a great “duel” between Denson’s sax and Scone’s organ. It really flies. Less restrained and more classically “soul-jazz” is ‘Wash Cloth’ – a throwback to jazz-inspired movie themes like ‘The Odd Couple’ while the loosest tune is the lengthy ‘Apache Indian Wardance’ on which all the main players get to stretch out. In between there are short cameos from Sparks (‘Catchin’ Sparks’), Scone (‘Scone Break’) and Naylor (‘Zak Attack’) leaving the set’s only cover – Eddie Harris’ ‘Time To Do Your Thing’ as another quality 70s throwback.