Fred Wesley

Wuda Cuda Shuda

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Recorded during a European tour in the fall of 2002, Fred Wesley's Wuda Cuda Shuda is a typical collection of funk tunes from the trombone-playing bandleader who is a former member of James Brown's JB's and George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic. Anyone who has heard Wesley's horn work in those former associations will know what to expect here in music that retains the funky rhythms (courtesy of drummer Bruce Cox and bass player Michael Mondesir) in a somewhat more stripped-down form than they were heard in Wesley's earlier bands. This time, the focus is on the horns -- Wesley, saxophonist Ernie Fields Jr., and trumpeter Gary Winters -- and that gives the tracks an unfinished feel to those who are accustomed to thinking of the horns as one element in an overall arrangement to be topped off by the focus brought by a Brown or Clinton. Without such a star player, the sidemen shine, but they don't draw the spotlight like the absent leaders. This is especially noticeable when Wesley, Cox, or guitarist Reggie Ward takes the microphone for a vocal turn. Wesley's music, like Brown's and Clinton's, is built up out of riffs and rhythms, but without a strong frontman it is left to lean toward jazz without really getting there. The playing of Wesley and his mates is always tasty, but it is more of an appetizer than a full meal.

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