Gerald Albright is set to release Slam Dunk, a 12-track outing that finds the saxophonist trying his hand on electric bass guitar. Most of the album’s dozen songs are Albright originals, though he does toss in a couple of covers that were popularized by Phil Collins and James Brown.
“This record is synonymous with my previous records, in that it has the direct influence of James Brown, the Philly International sound, and the Motown sound,” Albright says. “But what we wanted to do on this record was to take those instruments that are normally in the background—bass, flute and horns—and bring them up front. In terms of being a bassist, I was inspired by Louis Johnson [of the Brothers Johnson] back in college. A lot of people don’t know that I play bass, flute and some of the other instruments … so we decided to make it—no pun intended—a slam dunk project, and bring all of those elements to the forefront.”
Recorded in Denver, Colorado, and Wallingford, Connecticut, Albright is also supported on this CD by drummer Jerohn Garnett, guitarist Rick Watford and his daughter, Selina Albright, on vocals.
The album includes “The Duke,” an upbeat track dedicated to the late George Duke, who passed away last year. “I always called him my Poppa G, my industry dad,” Albright says. “We used to hang out and talk about music; talk about anything. I was blessed to spend a lot of time with him. George was one of those wonderful, approachable brothers you felt close to. I’m still processing his loss.”
The ballad “Where Did We Go Wrong?” features the renowned tenor voice of Peabo Bryson. “We’ve been friends for a long, long time,” Albright says. “I had the pleasure of doing a saxophone solo on his hit, ‘Show and Tell.’ We recently performed together at the Berks Jazz Fest, and his voice was in rare form. After the show I said, ‘Man, I’m doing this record, and I have a song that you’d be ideal for. Would you be interested?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ So we have this wonderful friendship and camaraderie, and it’s reflected on ‘Where Did We Go Wrong?’”
Albright’s down-home rendition of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” is the highlight of the CD. “It’s hard for me to do a record without channeling James Brown,” Albright says. “We didn’t want it to be like the original version. We started with a kind of subtle, chordal thing that led up to the initial sax melody. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”
Slam Dunk will be available on August 5 on the Heads Up imprint.