Instrumental tunes that mix heavenly pop, moody themes and deep, rocking grooves.
Jim Duffy, a Brooklyn-based keyboardist, presents a set of sparkling, original instrumental tunes. Duffy has been behind the scenes for a while now, playing in the band Martin's Folly and backing up the likes of Wanda Jackson, Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon, Eric Ambel, the Damnwells, the Bottle Rockets and many others. Now he steps out front with refreshing compositions played by some of New York's hardest-rocking musicians.
"Side One" is Duffy's first solo album. All the sounds were recorded in vintage analog stereo, for a warm texture that harkens back to the halcyon days of Burt Bacharach. The opening track, "Knowing What You Want," reaches for those heights with string passages by members of the Flux String Quartet, culminating in a soaring flugelhorn melody from Mac Gollehon.
The concept was to scan the past 50 years of American pop music and do an original take on it, using musicians who came up through the rock basements. Dennis Diken of the Smithereens plays drums on every track. Bassist Paul Page and Guitarist Lance Doss, both from John Cale's band, fill out the basic lineup. Jim Duffy leads with piano or an early-'60s Wurlitzer electric piano.
"Get Up for Ray," Duffy's take on a Ray Charles-type groove, rocks from side to side with a raucous saxophone arrangement. "Broken Field" harkens back to the dramatic soundtracks of NFL highlight films. If you listen closely to the creepy "Gentle Panic," you'll hear a musical saw. In the moody "Your White Raincoat," if you start flashing back to "Midnight Cowboy," well, who's to blame you? In the closing track, the flag-waving "Morning Rays," the band revs up a Booker T groove, then Gollehon lets it rip with a flying trumpet solo that brings it home in style.
The overall effect is bracing and unpredictable. Jim Duffy's "Side One" is suitable for parties of all sizes.
-- Derek Shackwell-Smith St. Cleve Chronicle
I love this totally instrumental disc. Go to CD Baby and get it right away. Jim Duffy is channeling Bacharach, early Chicago and Peanuts, as in the cartoon. There isn't a loop to be found, but it is loaded with strings, horns, piano, wurlitzer, guitars, lap steel and even a glockenspiel. It is buzzing from the heart and soul of real live musicians, and some notable ones to boot: Dennis Diken of the Smithereens on drums, Paul Page on bass and Lance Doss on guitar/lap steel, (both from John Cale's band), provide a fantastic backbone of a rhythm section for Duffy's well orchestrated arrangements. Jim Duffy handles the piano/Wurlitzer himself. These guys must have had a blast laying these tracks down. I wish I had been in the room.
I also love the way it's recorded. Sometimes when I listen to cds, my ears get fatigued by the pure digital-ness of the recording. "Side One" was recorded and mixed by Greg Duffin at Cowboy Technical Services of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, run by studio stars Eric Ambel and Tim Hatfield on mostly vintage gear. No fatigue can possibly come from these old school recordings.
This is one whimsical, joyous and refreshing cd. Although it is reminiscent of yesteryear, it is so different from much of what we hear these days. I'll call it the new old school. I hope it's on the way back and gets big.
-- Ann Klein, The Muse's Muse http://www.musesmuse.com/columnistsgreylogs/archives/00000795.html
Is anyone even making music like this anymore? Brooklyn keyboardist Jim Duffy seems to exist in a bygone era, at a time when the Brill Building still stands, when TV theme songs were AM radio hits, when Bacharach piano melodies were enough to sell records.
There's naïve joy in this collection of 11 original instrumentals as Duffy plays propulsive, groove-based piano underscored with his own catchy chord work on a Wurlitzer electric piano; he rounds out the sound with a studio full of instruments - lap steel, strings, brass and musical saw (on "Gentle Panic") - played by musicians happy to have the chance to show off their old-fashioned chops. Ray Charles is an influence ("Get Up for Ray"), and he and Booker T bang heads on the best cut, the last track, a six-and-a-half-minute jam called "Morning Rays," with everybody digging in and spreading the mirth.
-- Buzz McClain, Harp Magazine
Jim Duffy on piano and electric piano, backed up by a basic guitar-bass-drums band and all sorts of friends. Duffy does paint his songs differently, depending on the extras (horns, strings, etc.) - or maybe he calls in his pals to flesh out his songs the way he wants them to sound.
Either way, Duffy is essentially an R&B piano player, with touches of boogie-woogie and other styles seamlessly tossed in. His songs simply roll out with consummate ease, immediately charming the ear and inducing the mind to relax. Take a load off. Enjoy yourself.
And as these songs stroll through classic soul, the blues, rock, jazz and more, the one connecting factor is Duffy's stylish feel for the keyboard. He plays the electric piano on most of these songs, and he manages to exude real emotion and feeling on an instrument that can make that quite difficult.
Just a lovely feel to this album. It cycles through plenty of moods, but the prevailing wind is that of a warm spring breeze. Effervescent, with the promise of better days to come. And the ideas to back up that optimism. Truly a joy.
-- Aiding and Abetting, http://www.aidabet.com
Keyboardist Jim Duffy tickles the ivories for the band Martin's Folly; he's also played with Wanda Jackson, the Bottle Rockets, Eric Ambel and others. "Side One," however, is no roots rock supersession, but a lively collection of instrumentals.
Duffy entices a plethora of appealing melodies from his pianos, arranged in a variety of moods. "The Crawler" sounds like the backing track of a long-lost Al Green session at Hi, while "Mother of Pearl" acknowledges country piano pioneer Floyd Cramer. Add poetic lyrics to "Your White Raincoat" and you'd think you stumbled onto a Jimmy Webb outtake; crank up "Morning Rays" and everybody in a 20-foot-radius will twist and frug the day away. "Knowing What You Want" and "A.M. Fun City" would do Burt Bacharach proud.
Duffy's sharply tasteful playing and understated support team (including Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken and members of John Cale's band) keep the music tightly held to the melodies-no self-indulgent soloing here. As a resume of what Duffy can do, "Side One" is impressive. As an album in and of itself, it's a winner.
-- Michael Toland, High Bias http://www.livejournal.com/community/highbias/11468.html
There isn't a lot of non-jazz piano-based instrumental music out there -- or at least there hasn't been for a few decades. It should be no surprise, then, that a contemporary piano-based instrumental CD like "Side One" would sound like a time capsule from '60s London. Whether Jim Duffy considers his songs to be retro blasts or contemporary pieces is a moot point, really; either way you take them, it's more fun than you've had since you watched Snoopy dance to "Linus and Lucy."
Duffy splits his time pretty evenly between a classic piano and an electric Wurlizter. The Wurly tunes achieve a buzzy lounge bliss reminiscent of Miles Davis's R&B outings. "Get Up for Ray" doesn't have an ounce of the psychedelia from Bitches' Brew, but the unmistakable tones from the organ and horns make it tough not to make the comparisons. "The Crawler" is another sharp Wurlitzer song, this one sounding uncannily like the music from that "How a Bill Becomes a Law" cartoon from your grade school. The trumpet arrangements alone are worth the list price.
The bigger achievement for Duffy was producing jams on the piano. After all, doesn't everyone sound like a pimp when playing an electric organ? The piano, however, has been square for most of the music buying public's life and probably still is, outside of Side One. Regardless of this perception, Duffy and his talented band dig deep into songs like "Knowing What You Want", a song that's two parts Burt Bacharach and one part Herb Alpert -- which to you may not sound like a recipe for hipster casserole, but you'd be wrong. There's an earnestness to the playing, each percussive chord from the piano sounding soulless and bare without the aid of reverb or distortion, that is impossible to fake; no amount of posturing can be a substitute for this.
It might be impossible to listen to the finger-snapping bliss of "A.M. Fun City" without at least cracking a smile. Unlike jazz, these sounds are all straight up and down, without improv or any sense of the player's personality. It's all trumpet, piano, hi-hat and tight pants in here. Despite that rigidity -- or perhaps because of it -- this song has the ability to break down the most cynical listener.
-- Philip Stone, Splendid Magazine http://www.splendidezine.com/review.html?reviewid=11114070362123095
I can imagine this album catching on with the hipsters. Chill-out's over, everybody does jazz, and the R&B grooves just aren't cutting it for the parties any more. Only problem is, there's nothing to play after this. Jim Duffy's debut album, "Side One," sounds unlike anything around today.
It's roughly old AM radio, except that stuff like this music wasn't on then either; on this album nostalgia becomes incarnate in an aural reflection of a nonexistent past. Forget Burt Bacharach, the closest (and probably most frequently made) comparison you'll find is to Vince Guaraldi (of "Linus and Lucy" fame). It's not jazz, it's not pop, but it's somewhere in that region. The 11 tracks Duffy presents are fun and mostly sunny; that's about it, and it's probably enough.
-- Justin Cober-Lake, PopMatters http://www.popmatters.com/shorttakes/2005_07_31_archive.shtml
After years backing music legends like Wanda Jackson, Freddie Cannon, Eric Ambel and others, Brooklyn-based keyboardist Jim Duffy released his own CD "Side One" in 2004. Backed by some truly great players including Dennis Diken (from Smithereens on drums), Lance Doss (guitarist from John Cale's band) and the strings of the Flux String Quartet, Duffy channels the spirits of Burt Bacharach and late, great piano man Vince Guaraldi on a short but sweet CD that would make a great soundtrack to a "Peanuts" cartoon.
The 11-track instrumental CD makes a splendid argument for the wonders of the 88-key piano, a noble, vintage instrument that's just about been forgotten in this age of high-tech wizardry. From Ray Charles-style grooves to '60s retro and soundtrack sounds, "Side One" is a joy from start to finish.
-- Music Web Express 3000 http://www.mwe3.com/archive/jan-feb2005spotlight.htm
I don't normally review instrumental piano music, but this was a pretty fun CD from Jim Duffy. Entitled Side One (ah, yes, harken back to those times when there were two sides to albums), it is a mishmash of mostly energetic instrumental tunes that borrow from the last 50 years of American pop. Indeed, that was the stated concept, and Duffy sure does it well.
Again, I don't know much about the genre, but it's hard to not like the "Peanuts"-influenced tracks like "Get Up For Ray" and "For Those Who Are Leaving". Duffy has wisely assembled a barnload of competent "real" musicians (including luminaries like Dennis Diken of the Smithereens and Paul Page and Lance Doss, who play with John Cale) that really fill out the tracks well.
For me, I was rather partial to the "slower" tracks like the somewhat creepy "Gentle Panic" that is bathed in tingling Wurlitzer and hissing jazzy drums. The mellow '50s "slow dance" tune "Sob Story" was sort of fun as well.
This ain't no Ben Folds Five, and perhaps all for the better, because I found myself sort of relaxing in the absence of vocals. Sharp contrast to the punk albums we get, but a sort of nice change for today.
-- Shmat.com http://www.shmat.com/reviews.php?page=detail&rev=284