Teasin', Cornell Dupree's first solo album, represents another entry in the lexicon of rhythm and blues that Cornell and his colleagues compile with every date they play. The vintage band includes many of the illustrious veterans of Atlantic's studio scene: tenorman David "Fathead" Newman, bassist Chuck Rainey, drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, keyboardist Richard Tee, and percussionist Ralph MacDonald.
Cornell's liquid guitar dominates the album less than one would expect from a solo release, though its modest bearing is a measure of the restraint and respect with which the musicians handle both the tunes and their skills. In Dupree's hands, electric guitar becomes once again a human instrument capable of the emotional inflections common, it seems, only to the voice and horn. Cornell's sweet lead croons slow melodies like Ray Charles's "What Would I Do Without You?" as well as up-tempo funk like Eric Gayle's "How Long Will It Last?" with equal love and reflection. At his best, Cornell syncopates his phrasing with a quiet vengeance, splitting runs over the back of the beat and often concluding lines with double-stopped chords that crack the heart of the rhythm itself.
The title cut, composed a few years ago by King Curtis and Delaney Bramlett, embodies the relaxed, pumping sound that these sessionmen have made the model for rhythm and blues today. Simply polyrhythms - horns, guitar, and rhythm section at apparent odds - turn the tuen into a cool locomotion whose swinging strategy persists throughout the album. Secrets abound whenever these musicians play, particularly the secrets of silence and space: choice phrasing, they seem to say, means placing rests as precisely as the notes themselves.
Mark Meyerson and Michael Cuscuna's production, however, takes the lessons of Jerry Wexler and Muscle Shoals too literally in that the virtues of a slightly blurred ensemble sound become instead a mild haze of indistinguishable tracks whose overlapping often obscures the guitar itself.
Originally published in The Boston Phoenix, October 29, 1974