Jeremy Steig

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Firefly Review

by Thom Jurek

Produced by Creed Taylor himself, Jeremy Steig's jazz-funk throwdown, Firefly, is one of the great forgotten masterpieces of the genre. Steig is a monster flutist who may lack some of Herbie Mann's subtlety, but more than makes up for it with his chops. Taylor surrounded Steig with a band that was testosterone-fueled yet knew how to get the sexy grooves. Firefly was designed for the purpose of being a hit in the dance clubs, and it should have been, because it kicks ass on that level as well as on the jazz-funk beam. Arranged and conducted by pianist Dave Matthews, the band included guitarists Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, and John Scofield, Richard Tee on keys, drummers Steve Gadd and Allen Schwarzberg, conguera Ray Mantilla, percussionist Sue Evans, and vocalist Googie Coppola. As for the commercial edge, tracks like Dave Grusin and Earl Klugh's sublime groover "Livin Inside Your Love," features beautiful double-tracked flute solos going into the red on the funky soul edge; then there's the title track opener where Steig plays inside and out in shimmering interplay with Gary King's popping bassline. But it's on "Grasshopper," a Steig original, that this disc really soars. Overdriven chunky guitars, cutting across one another, electric Rhodes, and acoustic piano in counterpoint on two different melodies, bass bubbling like Sly Dunbar's, and orchestral horns giving Steig a punch lead line he can really mess with in his fills and solo. This is burning.

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