Always pick your friends up at the airport when they call. Rebecca Barry, one of the city’s leading tenor sax blowers and a solid singer to boot, did just that when Los Hombres Calientes pianist Victor “Red” Atkins rang, and for her trouble she wound up with the rhythm section from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, the band that brought jazz-funk fusion to the masses in the early ’70s. There aren’t many surprises during the course of the self-titled CD born of that meeting, but it’s not a bad fit, either.
The irony is that it’s Atkins who really sticks out: his ivory tickling is the centerpiece of the album’s mood, with Barry’s horn and the continuing mastery of Headhunter Mike Clark (one of hip-hop’s most sampled drummers) playing more or less supporting roles. The ten original selections here don’t contain much noodling, either, aside from the closing jam on “Loft Funk”; usually, the ’hunters set up a pleasant yet busy backbeat, Victor fills in the cracks, and Barry slides cerebrally around the top with coffeehouse-wise tributes to Gotham (“New York Minute”), treatises on “Poverty” and “Addiction,” and warnings about “Mind Games” and “The War Within.” This conglomerate operates from a ’70s jazz-pop aesthetic, so serious stick-up-the-ass jazz fans may scoff. And, yeah, it won’t make you forget “Vein Melter.” But as a happy bit of synchronicity, this meeting of the minds is at least as warm and professional as it is ultimately inconsequential. And there’s something to be said for that.