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George Pajon Jr.: “Fried Plaintains”

by Michael Pronko

Three years ago, Soulive’s CD “Turn It Out” started an avalanche of groove-based, jazz-inflected instrumental music. Followed by soulful, good-time releases from newcomers Rodney Jones, Bobby Broom, Karl Denson and stalwarts like the Greyboy Allstars and Maceo Parker, an entire shelf of funk-jazz CDs from the new millennium filled up. Much funkier and less cerebral than most straight jazz, these bands’ approach dovetailed with the jam band scene.

The new debut release by guitarist George Pajon Jr., “Fried Plaintains,” deserves a key spot among the great grooves on the funk-jazz shelf. As both an in-demand session musician and guitarist for the hip-hop band Black-Eyed Peas, Pajon developed a broad view of genres. He smoothly blends late-’50s hard bop (intense and long jams), James Brown horn sections (courtesy of Fred Wesley), Hammond B-3 organ and Rhodes piano (from former Greyboy Allstars keyboardist Robert Walter) with quintessential jazz-funk (served up by Herbie Hancock Headhunters’ drummer Mike Clark). Hip-hop rhythms and Cuban clave also work their way in beneath Pajon’s catchy guitar riffs. Pajon serves his funk-jazz up as straight up and delicious as the title dish.