Drew Phelps: Round to It
Bassist Drew Phelps grew up in North Texas, in Denton to be exact. While playing bass guitar while in junior high school, he was tuned onto the music of the Allman Brothers and Freddie King. During the 1980's Phelps hooked up with veteran modern jazz musicians like James Clay and Nuradeen Fameen and after a two-year stint with Clay, received a scholarship to the School of Fine Arts at the Banff Centre in Canada. There, under the tutelage of modern bassist Dave Holland, Phelps honed his bass skills.
Over his career, Phelps has recorded with a variety of groups playing a variety of musical styles - - The Dixie Chicks, Dallas jazz pianist Dave Zoller and fusionist and hard bopper, Ronald Shannon Jackson. For this debut disk, Phelps has selected a play list of his own songs, except for Hank William's classic, "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry". Several of Phelps' tunes were composed more than 10 years ago. But he wasn't encouraged to record any of them until he found the members of his current band, pianist Brad Williams, drummer Woody Berner, and guitarist Richard McLure.
Most of the tunes are played somewhere between a medium and up tempo pace. Despite the fact that there are eight tracks of Phelps' music, each tune seems to come from the same mold as the one which preceded and the one which will follow. Williams engages in dazzling piano runs, McLure, playing an assortment of guitars, lays on heavy chords with Phelps coming in somewhere in the middle with a Dave Holland sounding bass. This works for a while, but eventually predictability sets in. Tracks like "Mr. G" and "Recession" pretty much capture the essence of the set. "Mr. G" reveals Phelps' interest in mixing rock with jazz as McLure is reluctant to let go of a chord he likes and persistently repeats it. Woody Berner's drums are demanding and effusive throughout. The ringer on the set is the Hank Williams melody. Brent Mitchell sings it with the familiar nasal Texan twang and he does it well. But the guitar and piano which are playing in a non Texan manner, seem to twist the music in conflict with Mitchell's vocalizing.
Given the sameness of the music, listeners may find it difficult to keep their attention riveted on this CD, despite the obvious talent of the musicians.
Track Listing: Round to It; Ferals; Skippin' Through; Bump Dance; Mr. G; I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry*; Pomeranian; Glitter; Recession
Personnel: Drew Phelps - Bass; Brad Williams - Piano; Woody Berner - Drums; Richard McLure - Guitar; Brent Mitchell* - Vocals
Record Label: Fwingo