Groove is the fulcrum of funk, the essence of soul and what helps you cut to the quick of the blues. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie knows this — and does this — as well as any other drummer alive today. From James Brown to Aretha Franklin to Miles Davis to Steely Dan — and that's him on Percy Sledge's “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Paul Simon's “Love Me Like a Rock” and B.B. King's “The Thrill Is Gone” — he takes care of business without snagging the spotlight.
With pianist Bross Townsend and bassist Bob Cunningham (hence, the “3 B's” of this album's label) filling out the rhythm section, After Hours is hardly innovative music but, like any meat and potatoes, it's all in the quality of the ingredients and the way they're cooked. For example, “Strike Up the Band” could be a novelty march, but when Houston Person's nasal tenor sparks against the grindstone of Purdie's martial snare beats, the enthusiasm is infectious. Likewise the sashay on “Glory of Love,” which puts on the ritz in a manner that is simultaneously classic and kitsch. Carrie Smith belts out Bessie Smith's Katrina-timely “Backwater Blues” with impressive gusto and “Soul Fruit” is organ jazz without the organ. The best tune of all, “Samba de Amor,” allows itself a little ambition, from Cunningham's beautiful arco solo intro to the trilling ivories of Townsend over snazzy stickwork from Purdie. Trumpeter Fred Smith takes a sturdy, brassy solo before Cunningham returns with bow in hand.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, After Hours stands as a fabulous advertisement for said wheel — and any other durable pleasure too easily taken for granted.