Mahoney’s Way is a refreshing album of fluid, racing sax solos and tight rhythms. Originally released in May 2006, it reappears as a "special re-release" (not sure I understand why) and is the brainchild of Dave Mullen (AKA "Mahoney"), a very competent saxophonist, composer, and producer. The "Butta" part still escapes me, but the music doesn’t. It’s a really decent mix of feel-good funk and smooth jazz, with a bit of straight-ahead jazz offering and an edgy guitar riff thrown in for good measure.
The opening tune, "Flip It" gets you nicely primed for what’s to follow. What does immediately follow is the driving title track that has some interesting "old-time" chatter sprinkled throughout. The tune is reminiscent of the Junior Walker/Archie Bell era. The chatter is actually not very creative but very entertaining, nonetheless. "Chase Away the Rain" weaves in a more modern fabric of smooth jazz/R&B that does get the fingers popping and the head bopping. The vocals here are pretty crisp here, as well.
A rousing, slick version of Stevie Wonder’s "As," starts with a cool and pretty unique introduction that settles into a clear groove. The searing, soaring sax work walks arm-in-arm with the magnificently harmonious backing vocals. Oh, it’s clear that he was having a ball with this one. Track 6, "Prayer for our Times," epitomizes "unique" from the mechanical synthesized spoken word with its solemn, deep message about, yes, our times. "True Believer," follows with some really sharp, stirring, nightingale vocals by Lisala Beatty. The album goes on to show the breadth of its eclectic appeal as it settles into the slow, bluesy straight-ahead "Senora Cosa."
Check out where the latter part of the album goes as the guitar delivers scorching, wah-enhanced ‘70s rock-like riffs on the mid-tempo "March of the Roaches." This 9-minute journey is quite the eye-opener. It’s followed by a soft, smoldering jazz club/bar sax finale called "Bewitched" that smoothes you out in great parting fashion. The album features such notables as eclectic guitarist/composer Marc Ribot, composer/producer/guitarist Nile Rodgers, drummer/trumpeter Victor Jones, and super bassist Mark Egan. Their contributions place this album in a very comfortable, sure-footed place in contemporary jazz.
Mullen’s sax is urgent, intense, and ultra-expressive. It maintains an ever-present sassiness about it throughout the album. The melodies are easy to get your head around, and you can truly appreciate the depth of his experience as he wails through runs that demonstrate his feel and love of what he does. In a word, Mahoney’s Way is definitely worth your time.