Jack McDuff

The Heatin' System [Concord]

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A less-than-exemplary 1994 date, The Heatin' System finds Jack McDuff in an uncharacteristically subdued frame of mind. The nine tracks are heavy on the covers, which are either unimaginative rehashings of over-familiar standards (did we really need another take on either "In a Sentimental Mood" or "Put on a Happy Face"?) or perfectly acceptable versions of subpar tunes (Henry Mancini is a genius, but "Theme From the Pink Panther" is certainly one of his lesser efforts, and Chester Thompson's "Mr. T" is an obscurity for good reason), and even McDuff's five originals lack the playful strut of his best work. The rhythm section, particularly drummer Rudy Petschauer, certainly doesn't help matters any with their occasionally sluggish and generally uninspired playing, either, and two sax players (alto Andrew Beals and tenor Jerry Weldon) are often one too many. The nadir is "Sundown," which features McDuff's finest solo on the album as well as the first evidence that the rhythm section is entirely awake, but is an otherwise completely bland and forgettable smooth jazz trifle. Jack McDuff can't make an entirely bad album thanks to his immense performing gifts, but The Heatin' System is certainly one of his lesser efforts.

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