Photo: courtesy of Leni Sinclair (copyright 2000)
by John Sinclair
New Orleans soul man Les Getrex has traveled a long road to make 300 Miles, his first full-scale album. From his childhood days in the cityís musically rich Sixth Ward, through stints with Crescent City R&B stars like Johnny Adams, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Barbara George and Marva Wright, to an eight-year residency as guitarist in the Fats Domino orchestra and another five years with the late Rockiní Dopsie & his Zydeco Twisters, Les has paid a whole lot of dues before emerging finally as a featured artist in his own right.
Now Les Getrex heads his own band, Hot Stuff, working regularly in the Bourbon Street entertainment mills and, increasingly, as a showcase artist in more prestigious music spots like Tipitinaís and the Howliní Wolf. Heís developed a repertoire of well-crafted original tunes from his own pen and in collaboration with songwriters Greg Clark and Johnny Maxwell, a pair of Motown veterans who came across the New Orleans singer and guitarist one night when Clark stopped in a club to catch blues belter Marva Wright and found Getrex sitting in.
"Lesís singing and playing knocked me out," Clark enthuses. "Johnny Maxwell and I had written a number of tunes we were happy with and wanted to find the right artist to interpret them. When I heard Les that night, I was convinced weíd found the man we were looking for."
Working closely with Lesís personal manager, Merline Kimball, Clark quickly assembled an all-star backing band and brought Getrex into Mark Hewittís Sound Service studio to cut the collection of carefully-tailored compositions which make up his debut album. The sensitive and sympathetic accompaniment provided by pianist Bob Andrews (a key member of Lesís working band), bassist Alonzo Johnson (from the current Rockiní Dupsie Band), drummer Earl Smith, hornmen Tracy Griffin (trumpet) and Brian "Breeze" Calliole (saxophones), and violinist Michael Ward helped bring the songs to vibrant life and contributed substantially to the albumís success.
Getrexís intensive involvement in the project is everywhere apparent. While itís his smooth, soulful voice thatís showcased throughout, Les played all the guitar parts, contributed several of his own songs -- "Fall In Love," "Hey Babe," the snappy instrumental "Red Beans and Rice," and a compelling revival of his 1976 single, "Donít You Say a Mumbliní Word" -- and added his personal touch to each of the tunes crafted for him by Clark and Maxwell.
Les identifies himself here primarily as a contemporary soul singer of the first order, delivering convincing readings of radio-ready songs like "One Believer," "If I Had a Dream," "Dreamer," and the compelling, socially-conscious "Free Us." But he also shines on the forceful modern blues material like "What Makes You Act Like That" and "Mumbliní Word," and he comes up with a potent country music crossover sound on the dramatic title track and the slyly idiomatic anthem titled "Jumpiní Over Dollars."
Most of all, Les Getrex demonstrates here his readiness to step onto the world stage as an expressive singer of considerable emotive force, a bandleader with a responsive ensemble and a stirring repertoire of original material, a savvy performer and polished recording artist who has prepared himself carefully for the important next step in the development of his career as a top-flight entertainer. Les is ready now, and you can hear it in every note captured on 300 Miles.
-- New Orleans
March 26, 2000
© 2000 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
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