Thom Douvan, a greasy-great guitarist who’d had an earlier stint gigging with the legendary Funk Brothers, could have used this opportunity to pay too-reverent respects to Motown. But the very fun, very funky Brother Brother is much more than that.
Douvan isn’t afraid, even while exploring some of the best known sides featuring those same Funk Brothers, to mix things up on this forthcoming release, due April 29, 2014. He adds a frisky mambo beat to Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” recalls classic Blue Note organ-group recordings on “The Water Is Wide,” adds a determined swing to Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.” He also, just as interestingly, moves beyond the expected canon of old-school sides into newer offerings from the likes of Hall and Oates, Tony Toni Tone and even Alicia Keys.
Even when he gets deep into the pocket on tracks like the Isley Brothers’ “Harvest for the World,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Earth Wind and Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World,” Douvan brings in unexpected influences ranging from the gritty soul of Cornell Dupree to the free-flowing warmth of Wes Montgomery.
Brother Brother, which is dedicated to Funk Brothers members Johnny Griffith and Richard “Pistol” Allen, features a spirited group of current players — including organist Duncan McMillan, the late drummer Ralph Penland and saxist Tony Malfatti, among others. Together, they mix and match textures and feels, old and new, reverence and passion, paying tribute to even as they expand upon these iconic moments.