Between the Valdons’ white tuxedos, Maurice Jacox’s red-velvet jacket and Wanda Davis’ elegant light-purple gown, the Cedar Cultural Center’s stage saw more nicely dressed performers during Saturday’s “Twin Cities Funk & Soul” release party than it normally sees all year. More relevant than the attire was the fact that the musicians and crowd wore smiles all night, too.
Saturday’s show was a rare, one-of-kind reunion of the acts who make up the stellar new compilation album from Secret Stash Records, “Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves From Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979).” The good vibes started with the fact that – despite the “lost” star value of the performers -- tickets sold out in advance, and a discernably mixed audience turned out (race, gender and even age; although the musicians’ kids and grandkids in attendance might’ve helped on the latter front). And then there was the class-reunion aspect of the concert, as many of the musicians had not seen each other in decades. Davis, Jackie Harris and Valdons’ Clifton Curtis, all of whom now live in other cities and flew in just for the show.
The concert was far from a breezy, light old-timers affair, though. Take host Thornton “Pharoah Black” Jones’ intro of the Valdons: “These guys would have wigs and panties thrown at them on stage,” the veteran KUXL radio DJ recalled, just before the vocal quartet took the stage for the pre-encore finale. Their Temptations-style vocal parts sounded ageless as they delivered Dave Brady & the Stars’ “Ridin’ High” along with their own harmonious version of the Tom Jones hit “I (Who Have Nothing).” Said a visibly moved Monroe Wright III, “This is a real treat. We haven’t done these songs since 1972 or 1973.”
Nearly retired from singing altogether, Davis also looked emotional and sounded strong as she returned to the stage to deliver “Take Care.” She was a nice contrast to Jacox and Willie Walker, two guys who continue to sing around town and demonstrated their prowess when they teamed up to sing Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” Walker also shined early in the evening with his own Stax-styled gem “I Ain’t Gonna Cheat on You No More.”
The singers were backed by a house band that included Secret Stash’s musician co-founders Cory Wong and Eric Foss on guitar and drums, respectively (and quite respectably), plus a cast veteran players from that era, including bassist Wilbur Cole and horn men Jimmy “Jimmyapolis” Wallace and Bill Gaskill. They were surprisingly tight all night – surprising, since word was they only had two rehearsals – and encored with a lively funk jam led by Harris. Jacox then brought the entire cast of singers back out onto the stage during his song “Minneapolis,” during which he emphatically noted, “This ain’t New York music. This ain’t Philadelphia music.”
Here's hoping Saturday's music also won't be one-time-only. Click here for Steve Cohen's from the concert for Vita.mn.