U-Nam - C'est Le Funk

U-Nam
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Perhaps it’s lack of imagination or simple laziness that gets projects such as U-Nam’s C’est Le Funk labeled as contemporary jazz or smooth jazz or whatever label we choose to use for an instrumental project these days. U-Nam, a guitarist influenced by the likes of George Benson – for whom he made a tribute album in 2012 – and Wes Montgomery, makes it clear from the title that he sees this latest creation as a funk project.

In that way, he has much in common with both Benson and Montgomery, because neither shied away from dipping deeply into the popular music well. U-Nam strives to find that sweet balance between improvisation and jazz virtuosity on his instrument and pop music accessibility.

Perhaps it’s lack of imagination or simple laziness that gets projects such as U-Nam’s C’est Le Funk labeled as contemporary jazz or smooth jazz or whatever label we choose to use for an instrumental project these days. U-Nam, a guitarist influenced by the likes of George Benson – for whom he made a tribute album in 2012 – and Wes Montgomery, makes it clear from the title that he sees this latest creation as a funk project.

In that way, he has much in common with both Benson and Montgomery, because neither shied away from dipping deeply into the popular music well. U-Nam strives to find that sweet balance between improvisation and jazz virtuosity on his instrument and pop music accessibility.

U-Nam’s choices of cover tunes along with the way he arranges those track hints at his desire to make an instrumental funk album. His remakes of the Maze cut “Can’t Get Over You” and the 1980s funk anthem, “Risin’ To The Top,” find U-Nam subbing his guitar for Frankie Beverly and Keni Burke’s vocals. What emerges are instrumental funk versions of classic tracks from soul music’s summer cookout soundtrack.

U-Nam also brings a jazz artist’s penchant for reinvention to C’est Le Funk’s one vocal track, “Act Like You Know.” The song takes the Fat Larry's Band classic and provides a joyous ode to turning it up on the dance floor. “Something’s Up” finds U-Nam taking a dash of the intro from Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fall In Love With Me” with “September’s” bass line and some of George Benson’s solo guitar licks to create a totally new jam, while the originals on C’est Le Funk, such as “Throwback Kid,” feature a rhythm section that lays down a steady groove that serves as a platform for U-Nam’s solos.

Some of the greatest R&B and soul songs have been instrumentals – think “Green Onions” or “Soul Finger” by the Bar Kays. So U-Nam’s approach C’est Le Funk has historical precedence. It is a solid album that sports a number of  infectious and fun tracks that deserve to be heard beyond the limited and rapidly receding borders of smooth jazz radio. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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