Neville Jacobs

Harmonized Records scores a grand slam with the new Neville Jacobs release.

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ivan Neville hails from the "first family of funk", New Orleans' storied Neville clan. Son of "Papa Funk" Aaron Neville and nephew of the famed Neville Brothers, he scored his own first radio hit back in 1988, toured with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to the Spin Doctors, and played keys on two Rolling Stones albums. Since 2003 he's kept the circle unbroken with the gritty lubricated jamfunk of Dumpstaphunk featuring his own cousin Ian Neville on guitar.

Singer and guitarist Cris Jacobs first rose to acclaim with rootsy Baltimore-based jamgrassers The Bridge and now tears up the circuit with the countrified R&B of his own Cris Jacobs Band. They round out their scintillating new supergroup with Tony Hall from Dumpstaphunk on bass and Brady Blade on drums, brother of renowned jazz drummer Brian Blade.

"Neville Jacobs" is a fun and dynamic record, with peaks and valleys that never linger long enough to gather moss on their muscles. Rather than settling into a single sound or style, the songs grab the best of both artists' influences, imagination and spirit to raise each other up to new heights and explore a fresh range of musical terrains. With songs written by both and some written together, the search for common ground found fertile soil to grew a new sound, an organic throb that unfolds unrushed and unforced. Their complementary sensibilities are like two chefs who can season each others' gumbo blindfolded.

The album opens with a fatback drumbeat and a meaty guitar riff with the bone left in. "Wasted" reveals a band with a sparse but chunky sound, with distorted vocals grinding over a clean production. Aaron Neville appears on backing vocals for the smooth and delicious changes of "Makeup of a Fool." The low boogie shuffle of "The Stakes" features powerful harmony vocals punching through the mix before unraveling into an expansive and explorative jam replete with wah-wah warbles and bubbly bass, building up in energy before oozing into a languid groove.

The gorgeous acoustic guitar of "City Rain" contrasts mightily with the following "I Wanna Know," which opens with a huge riff from a guitar apparently crammed into an electric socket. Old-school funky female group vocals punctuate this huge head-shaker. The rootsy rock of "River Behind Me" heats up to the boiling and luscious flow of "Dance for Me Mama," a soulful burner where each instrumentalist especially shines. The solid rock of "Money Talks" leads into the closing track "Good to You," which bounces us out of this lively new musical playground with a joyful and hearty shout.

- Paul Kerr