Mike Clark‘s Prescription Renewal rolled into the Big Apple after a lackluster debut performance two nights earlier in Philly on December 28. A blustery Friday evening sandwiched smack in the middle of the holiday week, the temperature and soundtrack in BB Kings was straight heated. Yet another stacked lineup lead by the reborn Headhunters’ skinsman busted an energetic crowd crazy open, kicking off the New Year’s weekend in true school fashion.
A new and greatly improved Groove Collective opened, and their dubbed out organica house vibe impressed revelers who were arriving in typically NYC casually late fashion. Guest MC Baba added some beatbox and party rhymes, and an invigorated Groove Collective really staked claim to another unique and new sound, rooted firmly in both Chicago house and London dub. The percussion player was a different person than I remember from the last time I saw them (12/97), and a new saxophone/flute player was added to the mix as well. GC ushered in their styley new sound with class and a sense of seriousness and integrity. They were very warmly received by the rapidly thawing masses.
Mike Clark and the PR casually rolled out about 11pm dressed a step up from Wednesday night’s gig. Bassist and fellow Headhunter Paul Jackson lead the ensemble out the gates with “The Funk Stops Here.” A driving stomp of a warmup, soon Fred Wesley was up and moving around gleefully, much to the delight of his bandmates and the audience. Skerik loved the animated antics of Jackson and Wesley, two truly old school veteran chefs who still cook up a mean stew. Throughout the evening, the crunked-out bottom end supplied by Jackson and Clark would act as a hydraulic vehicle for the cacophonous wizardry brought by Skerik on his self-styled saxophone steez. “Watermelon Man” featured both the head of the straight jazz version and the bridge of the Headhunter’s. Before “Chameleon,” Clark made a hilarious statement that was something along these lines, “on this next one, Herbie made thousands, we made…. hundreds.” Whatever, it did not seem like anybody had time for lingering animosity, especially legendary B3 extraordinaire Reuben Wilson, who had a blast exploring organ melodies left undiscovered by the countless jambands who cover these groundbreaking tunes. Reuben also shined on Coltrane’s “Naiima,” where the soaring saxophone was more than amply supplied by Skerik, respectful to the master, I might add. The normally spastic and straight up unbelievable saxman was uncharacteristically humble and reserved in his stage manner and even in his playing, adding yet another to the many faces of Skerik.
A twangin’ country bluesman from Chicago named David Grey stepped in on guitar for some Chi-town heat on a few numbers, the most rambunctious being the Fred Wesley led medley “Funky Good Time/House Party”. His gunslinger riffs fuzzed out of his Telecaster with precision and a tightness again seldom retained by today’s bands. During the JB’s marathon, it occured to me that Maceo Parker was playing just a few blocks away this very evening. Maceo and his R.Kelly wanna be kid could never cook up funk this deep with their band of session guys, and as the Prescription Renewal tore through classic after classic, I began to truly appreciate the historic alliance on stage in front of me.
Then it came to me, that’s what the years and years and tireless gigging will do to ya, make you a tight and formidable band member. In the case of Jackson and Wesley, it can make you excessive in funkadelic fashion taste as well. Each of these guys, Skerik included, brought a level of class, respect, and musicianship seldom realized with any sort of regularity. The constantly evolving Perscription Renewal just provides a opportunity for legends of yesterday and the brightest stars of tomorrow to unite the clans in the name of funk. The funk definitely doesn’t stop here, but it certainly starts with some of these brothers. I look forward to even more incarnations of this progressive outfit.
Peace and May the New Year Bring Us Strength and Resolve,
[Published on: 1/6/02]
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