Before moving forward on Candy Dulfer's latest CD Funked Up, I found it necessary to first do some looking back. So I dug into the music archives where I knew that I would find a copy of the only other Dulfer CD that I owned - 2003's very good Right In My Soul. Then I went to the library and checked out Saxuality, Dulfer's 1990 debut record and 2007's Candy Store. That gave me 40 percent of Dulfer's musical output, and a representative sample at that. I had her very first record, something from the middle and her last two CD's. This allowed me see how her music evolved over the course of two decades, and it also allowed me to determine if there have been any musical themes that have been consistent throughout. Overall, it was a very educational experience.
Dulfer's career had a rocket-like rise - her first album was nominated for a Grammy and she also managed to have the rare instrumental crossover hit when "Lily Was Here" got to number 11 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. And although, she has not reached those heights again, Dulfer's career is at a very high level. And lest you think that Dulfer is one of those smooth jazz saxophone god(desses) with a pretty face, she also has both the pedigree and the chops to play straight ahead jazz. Her father is jazz saxophonist Hans Dulfer. Dulfer is also a much in demand sideperson for artists ranging from Prince, Van Morrison and Maceo Parker. Dulfer wouldn't be sitting in with any of those legends if she were just a pretty face.
Although Dulfer is not a media creation, she was born in the media age where image is important - Susan Boyle's shock the world substance over style performance on American Idol notwithstanding. Smooth jazz is part of Dulfer's image even though that classification is doesn't accurately represent much of what music listeners find on Dulfer's records. However, being classified as a smooth jazz artist probably helps sales. After all, how do you market funk these days - which is really how much of Dulfer's music should be classified.
What listeners hear on records such as Funked Up is an artist who fuses elements of jazz, R&B and hip-hop into her brand of funk. That jazz mainly comes through in Dulfer's improvisations that listeners hear in a song such as "My Funk." The fact is Dulfer has always been a very creative improviser. She can still create within the limits of genres that don't allow artists to take the flights of fancy that are so commonplace in jazz. That comes across in "My Funk" as Dulfer engages in a musical conversation with rapper Pete Philly. She slows the tempo 180 degrees on the R&B influenced "Still I Love You." Dulfer's sax playing falls in nicely with rhythm section. However, when its time for the saxophonist to step outside the box, her solo is subtle, nuanced yet memorable.
One of the things that I liked about Right In Your Soul was Dulfer's willingness to change tempo - moving from up-tempo dance tunes, to deep funk jams to ballads. She continues that trend on Funked Up, and this ensures that the record avoids that bland sameness that can afflict many records classified as smooth jazz. Recommended.