Nominated for Best Jazz Album of the Year by the San Diego Music Academy 2006.
“Bradley Leighton is in on the joke. Sporting Coke-bottle shades, white hat, a beefy fur coat and bling dangling from his neck and weighing down his fingers, the flutist pimps with the best of the 1970s funk masters on the cover of his latest smooth-groove project. Turn the CD over, though, and you’ll see Leighton stripped of his gaudy accouterments. “Hey,” he’s saying, “I’m just a flute guy playing around with the funk that’s inspired me.”
Unlike Leighton’s previous CD, where he covered some of his favorite tunes from the past, Back to the Funk offers eight tunes he composed with producer and keyboardist Allan Phillips. But don’t expect the foot-stompin’ nasty funk of Sly Stone or the slap-happy bass grooves of Bootsy Collins. Leighton’s funk is “funk lite.” Influenced by jazz flutists such as Bobbi Humphrey and the late Herbie Mann, Leighton instead lays down flighty grooves that are just fine for easy listening.
“Runaway” and “Clear Blue Skies” pump up the energy, but more in tune with the CD’s mood are mellifluous songs like “Back to the Funk” and the best track, “Flow.” Covers of “Special Lady” and “Make It With You” veer into mall-music territory, but Leighton closes with a satisfying take on Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s Light in Flight.”
Back to the Funk is an intentional throwback to early-’70s funky jazz, the type of music performed by flutist Herbie Mann and a little later by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. The R&B-ish grooves are catchy if predictable and the backup band is solid, with flutist Bradley Leighton in the lead nearly all of the time. Nothing unusual happens, but Leighton plays well over the vamps, sounding enthusiastic and reasonably creative within the genre. While eight of the 11 selections are recent originals, this could very easily be an album from 1972. Fans of that era’s funky music will want to pick this one up.