Born: May 29, 1951 Primary Instrument: Organ, Hammond B3
Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom is an irrepressible group mixing jazz, blues, funk, Latin and soul music in a heady brew that really grooves. Multi-instrumentalist Levy, whose resume includes stints with Albert and BB King, Charles Brown, Roomful of Blues, ReBirth Brass Band, Lowell Fulsom, Ronnie Earl, Charles Earland, The Wild Magnolias and Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, brings all his experience to the fore on Voodoo Boogaloo, playing Hammond B-3 organ, piano, vibes, basses, and a variety of electronic keyboards, in addition to composing and arranging all the music on the date. Joined by long-time Wild Kingdom regulars Melvin Sparks, the father of acid jazz, and jam band master saxist Karl Denson. Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom lets loose with some of the most soulful music on the planet today.
The opening Organ Colossus is a funky jungle strutting feature for Levy's B-3, clavinet and electric bass and Sax Gordon's tenor with the Wild Kingdom percussion section of Adrome Acidman MacHine's drums, Yahuba Garcia's congas, and Russ Lawton's bells cooking up a storm. The music is reminiscent of the classic R & B of Booker T and the MG's, the sixties soul of Stevie Wonder, the electrifying black rock of Sly and the Family Stone and the AfroPop of Manu Dibango all at the same time.
Voodoo Boogaloo showcases Levy's vibes on a Latin line in the Cal Tjader tradition that's jazzed up with a swinging Milestones-inspired bridge. Garcia's timbales and congas and Lawton's percussion spice up the mix with some salsa Picante, while Karl Denson soars on flute over Gordon's beefy baritone sax. Melvin Sparks lets fly with a classic guitar solo, quoting Moanin', Tequila, and Softly As A Morning Sunrise, backed by Levy's relentlessly grooving B-3.
Drum and bass open up the soulful ballad Love Retoined with Jeff Lockhart's guitar sharing the spotlight with Levy's organ and electric piano. Shades of Isaac Hayes meets Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes.
Better Save Yo'seff is jazzy New Orleans styled rhythm and blues with Sax Gordon blowing shotgun tenor over Acidman MacHine's funky beat, bolstered by Lawton's tambourine. Levy settles into a comfortable Big Easy groove and stays right there, allowing Lockhart to get down with some great guitar gumbo.
Levy's Spy On The Fly is his take off on sixties' Quincy Jones cop show soundtracks, complete with sirens, string synthesizers and smokin' Sax. The leader's busy hands stay full on this one, soloing on vibes and B-3 while wielding his full arsenal of keyboards in the background.
Garcia's congas and Lawton's tambourine set up Levy's organ and MacHine's traps for another Nawlins outing on the bluesy Spank! Denson and Gordon, on tenor and baritone, are one fierce horn section, riffing away the day, before Denson steps out front for a vicious solo. Levy mixes things up on organ, clavinet and the Korg MS-20 for a rockin' good time.
Wes Side West is a pretty jazz line executed with finesse by Denson on flute with Levy on bass and keys and Lawton's insistent tambourine pushing the percussion section. Sparks shows his stuff with a gutsy solo before Denson takes it to another level with an extended flute flight. Levy gets into the act with some jazzy organ licks before letting Sparks fade it out.
The date ends with Memphis Mem'ries. Levy puts his electric and acoustic pianos up front on this one with Denson backing him on alto and tenor in the sax section. Special guest Jerry Portnoy, veteran of the Muddy Waters Blues Band and sideman with guitar giant Eric Clapton blows some mean blues harmonica, at times sounding like a lazy Tennessee freight train, before Denson steps out front with some fat tenor. Levy winds the proceedings down with some mellow vibes and keyboards.
Voodoo Boogaloo is truly an exemplary excursion into Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom. It's a place where people can party on the timeless sounds of funky jazz and soulful blues as they groove into tomorrow.
- Russ Musto, All About Jazz
VooDoo Boogaloo is AMAZING! Every track is a home run. The grooves, the production, the playing - friggin' stupendous. I'll be using every song on the album in The Groove Boutique. Mucho kudos on an astoundingly slammin' achievement!!! - Rafe Gomez - TheGrooveBoutique.com, NYC's #1 Sat night radio show, WQCD 101.9
Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom - VOODOO BOOGALOO: I'm thinkin' this must be funk & groove month... we've already gotten quite a few CD's reviewed that feature really upbeat funk-based music... & this h'yar Boogaloo won't let you down. Ron's a multi-instrumentalist beyond th' normal reach of that word... he jus' KICKZ on th' opener, Organ Colossus, with some superb B-3... then he pulls out some vibes on th' title track & makes us think we're back in th' late '60's with Cal Tjader. For ol' jazz/phunsters like me, it doesn't GET any better than this. Th' whole album will lift yer' spirits to new highs, & th' group (far too large to catalog here) definitely lives up to th' Wild Kingdom image! There are some heavy Latin rhythms in addition to th' more recognizable funk pieces, & that Latino sound is totally authentic & energetic. Whether you're a party animal who just needs somethin' to shake it to, or a serious connoisseur of jazz with intestinal fortitude, you won't be able to do without this fantastic album. The organ sounds (alone) are worth the purchase price! This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us for listeners of all persuasions, though particularly for those enthralled with down-home funk that just won't quit! - Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj Prime perpetrator & Incipient Instigator Zzaj Productions & Improvijazzation Nation www.homemademusic.com/~zzaj
Some very hip funk here! Levy's best since 'Zim Zam Zoom' - Bob Porter, WBGO-FM, writer, Supervisor of many 70's soul jazz classics on Prestige records.
RLWK's last Cd, After Midnight Grooves was a slow satiny smooth burn for dancin' and romancin'. Voodoo Boogaloo is a full-throttle party throw-down, as Melvin Sparks, Karl Denson, Levy and the rest rock the house, hip, hard and funky. After Midnight Grooves made it onto my Top Ten Recordings of 2004 list. I'm pleased to report that Voodoo Boogaloo sounds even better. - Chris M. Slawecki, Senior music editor, www.AllAboutJazz.com
The bass pulses, the drums groove, the organ throbs, and the guitar, sax and flute weave in and out hypnotically. You absolutely can not listen to 'Voodoo Boogaloo' without shaking some part of your body. RLWK serves up a masterpiece! - Ken Raisanen, WOAS-FM
Great stuff, as always! - Chris Johnson HGMN
Great work from a player who just keeps on getting better and better! We've really liked organist Ron Levy's recent recordings a lot -- but somehow, this one really tops the bunch -- and comes across with a lean, mean, and focused sound that's soulfully groove-heavy all the way through! There's a style here that's a bit like that of Johnny Hammond in the early 70s -- a tight control of the organ keys that fuses wonderfully into the funky work of the rhythm section. And as on a few of his other recent sets, Ron's working here with some really heavyweight support from guitarist Melvin Sparks and saxman Karl Denson. Titles include Spank, Wes Side West, Spy On The Fly, Organ Colossus, and Voodoo Boogaloo. - Dusty Groove newsletter