Charles Elam III,
a/k/a Chucky C, is the kind of journeyman saxophonist who can
easily take the lead role in a back-up band for a headlining
artist or MC an opening set and leave listeners wondering, “Just
who IS that saxophone cat? He’s pretty darn good all on his
own.” And it’s true, whether backing a well-known recording
artist or fronting his own combo, as he does here, Chucky C is
truly a standout.
Just the list of his
performing and recording credits is pretty amazing: Percy
Mayfield, O.V. Wright, and Syl Johnson; Edie Brickell, Maria
Muldaur, and Bo Diddley; Irma Thomas, Marva Wright, Marcia Ball,
Tracy Nelson, and Aaron Neville.
And the résumés of his
band members in Clearly Blue are equally impressive (including
gigs with Gatemouth Brown, The Neville Brothers, Boz Scaggs,
Percy Sledge, Allen Toussaint, and Buddy Miles, just to name a
Together, they create
a seamless blend of smoothly rendered, nightclub R&B with
distinctive jazz and blues touches, occasionally mounting
musical forays into the straight blues (with Willie Dixon’s
“Hoochie Coochie Man”), slinky R&B jazz (Van Morrison’s “Moondance,”
with Chucky C on lead flute), and full-bore R&B (“Untouchable
Glide,” Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”).
In all cases, what
Chucky C and Clearly Blue offer are expertly played ensemble
arrangements with smokin’ solos and locked-in back-up grooves,
the kind of flawless funk that goes perfectly with a smoke
filled room, beautiful women dressed to the nines, and a full
glass of top-shelf libation sitting in front of you..