It's safe to say that the vast majority of people who were listening to jazz in the 1970s never heard of Brass Fever. Neither of its albums (Brass Fever in 1975 and Time Is Running Out in 1976) received much attention. Nonetheless, the band boasted an all-star lineup -- some of the participants on this self-titled debut album include John Handy (alto sax), Oscar Brashear (trumpet), Lee Ritenour (guitar), Buddy Collette (flute), and drummer Shelly Manne. And there are no less than five trombonists (Kai Winding, Frank Rosolino, Garnett Brown, George Bohanon, and Charlie Loper), which explains why the outfit is called Brass Fever. Such a lineup could have easily delivered a first-rate bop album, but this out of print LP isn't straight-ahead jazz. Brass Fever's focus is very accessible jazz funk á la the Crusaders, and a groove-oriented approach prevails on Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" as well as Labelle's "Lady Marmelade" and Donovan's "Sunshine Superman." These days, NAC artists like Najee and Kenny G would simply perform note-for-note covers of Labelle and Donovan tunes -- Brass Fever, however, interprets these songs and uses them as a vehicle for honest-to-God improvisation. That isn't to say that any of the performances would appeal to a bop snob; again, Brass Fever is unapologetically funky, and this very enjoyable LP (which is the band's most essential release) is strictly for those who like their jazz laced with lots of R&B.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson