It is such a gift and hard-won privilege when an artist reaches the point in their career when they can make art for art’s sake. The new album Super Soul Session! from Arlen Roth and Jerry Jemmott reflects that joy and status. Guitar hero and music education pioneer Roth, aka “Master of the Telecaster,” and Grammy winning bassist, Jerry Jemmott, aka “The Groovemaster,” were both chief session and touring musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s, working with many of the period’s well-known Rock, Pop Soul, Blues and Jazz artists. The longtime friends join forces on a baker’s dozen of iconic tracks from their career discography in celebration of over 50 years of making great music. The pair invited A-list players to join them for the New York sessions enlisting the talents of keyboardists Bruce Katz & Alex Salzman, rhythm guitarist Tom Gage, drummer Chris Parker, The Uptown Horns and special guests Joe Louis Walker and African vocalist Mukamuri. The collection of cover songs is not only a trip down memory lane, but also a loving exploration and deep dive into some of the duo’s favorite songs, many of which they had a hand in creating originally.
The album eases in with a tender and gently swinging reading of “I’m Just A Mortal Man,” mirroring the title track from the first solo album of soul singer Jerry Lawson of the Brooklyn a cappella group, The Persuasions. The first of two Aretha Franklin classics “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” takes a cue from Booker T. and the M.G.’s instrumental version of the Memphis Soul classic with Roth playing the melody line accented by hot horn jabs. Dedicated to James Jamerson, arguably the best bass player of all time, the oft recorded “Dancing In The Street” is a rocking celebration of soulful slide guitar and big groove.
Joe Louis Walker steps up to the mic for a Latin flavored take on “The Thrill Is Gone,” then trades hot guitar leads with Roth as the track fades. Of note Jemmott was part of the crew of young New York studio musicians who recorded the 1969 single that crossed B.B. King over into the pop market. Loving homage is paid to legendary Detroit studio band The Funk Brothers on South African tinged rundown of “(Your Love is Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” and to the Swampers from Muscle Shoals on a deadly version of “Chain of Fools.” Parker has some fun with his rumbling tom toms on “Shake,” and Mukamuri stretches out on Decca Records 1973 hit “Drift Away.”
Roth takes the lead on The Stones swamp pop prototype “Down Home Girl,” then plays the melody on a sublime instrumental take of “The Weight,” emulating the session Jemmott snuck in to play alongside Duane Allman for Aretha’s 1970 version of the much-loved song. Roth’s telecaster skills shine on country crossover track “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues.” Jemmott narrates the recipe for the famous Stax Sound on a joyous reproduction of “Memphis Soul Stew,” in tribute to his first bandmates King Curtis & The Kingpins.
Album finale has Roth again delivering the melody for a stirring rendition of “America The Beautiful,” emulating the famous 1972 version by the genius who invented Soul Music, Mr. Ray Charles. –Rick J Bowen
The guitar bug bit young Arlen Roth at the age of 9 and continues today as his driving creative force. After performing for 8 hours at the 1st Anniversary Woodstock Reunion Concert in Bethel, NY in 1970, he soon moved to Woodstock, NY, where he quickly jump-started his career. Today, his extensive catalog of albums and instructional books is second only to the list of artists with whom he has recorded and toured, including Paul Butterfield, Art Garfunkel, John Prine, Pete Seeger, the Bee Gees, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor and more. “Hot Licks,” Roth’s collection of 180 instructional videos featuring 150 artists, was first recorded while teaching Ralph Macchio the guitar parts for the movie Crossroads, and ultimately pioneered video music and guitar instruction. His book, “Hot Guitar,” is a compilation of ten years of his “Hot Guitar” column for Guitar Player Magazine. From 2007 to 2012, Roth was also the creator of over 1000 online lessons and blogs for Gibson Guitars. He has been named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Guitarists of All Time (Vintage Guitar magazine) and one of the Top 50 Acoustic Guitarists of All Time (Gibson.com). Roth is the founder and CEO of the International Guitar Hall of Fame and Museum, a long-time dream of his that he hopes to one day make a reality! Full bio @ www.arlenroth.com/bio.
Bassist Jerry Jemmott, aka “The Groovemaster,” was ordained in the deep and fertile roots of blues and jazz. This two-time Grammy Award winning session bassist has performed and recorded with Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and was a member of the legendary R&B group, King Curtis & The Kingpins, all despite being an early childhood traumatic brain injury sufferer. His seminal performing moniker-turned nonprofit corporation, Souler Energy, utilizes the voice of music, art, education, and technology, all to deliver a message of prevention and solution. Jerry is currently recording and working with artists from Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California, and is in the process of finishing his memoir, “I’m That Guy.” Full bio @ www.jerryjemmott.com/bio.html.