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The Sugarman 3 – comprising saxophonist Neal Sugarman, organist Adam Scone (“the greasiest Hammond player in New York City,” no less) and drummer Rudy Albin – were formed in 1996 by Sugarman as an outlet to recreate the dense, jazzy, Hammond-led grooves of artists such as Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff. After signing to the ultra-hip Daptone Records in the early 00s, the band rested after their 2002 album, Pure Cane Sugar.
Sugarman became instrumental in running Daptone and, playing in the Dap-Kings, he not only formed a union with Sharon Jones but also became, with said ensemble, an in-demand session man, gracing the work of Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. In 2011, Sugarman, Scone and Albin got together to see if they could recreate the spark and vibrancy of their earlier releases. They could, and soared ahead, cutting What the World Needs Now, 37 economical minutes of full-on party fare. The band quickly locks in and, with assistance from the wider Dap-King family (Joe Crispiano’s treble-heavy guitar and producer Bosco Mann’s taut bass playing in particular give the trio colour), they fashion a pulsating groove.
Their return is telegraphed on Your Friendly Neighborhood Sugarman, an update of The Bar-Kays’ Soulfinger, that sets the album’s often frenetic pace. However, What the World Needs Now has plenty of light and shade. The quiet reflection of Jealous Moon is complemented by the happy soul-clap of Mellow Meeting. The Budos Band’s Got to Get Back to My Baby, with its sweet, tight horn refrain is the album’s clear standout: sultry enough for the hottest summer night, warming enough for the darkest winter.
Even a track as ubiquitous as Bacharach and David’s What the World Needs Now sounds, if not exactly fresh and vital in the group’s hands, certainly reinterpreted with gusto. Best of all of the covers is The Standells’ freakbeat classic Dirty Water, which locates the inherent soulful swagger in the proto-punk of the original.
Recorded, naturally, in the finest mono, What the World Needs Now maintains the high Daptone quality threshold. It all depends where you stand on the group’s painstakingly retro, sax and organ-fuelled sound. If you love it and go the distance, these grooves are simply mesmeric.