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October 15 2009

Brad Walseth -

Rented Mule - “X”
I apologize the “mules” for not reviewing their previous self-titled album, which I found to be a surprisingly good release of good old-fashioned funky fusion, but which unfortunately fell through the cracks. With their unusual name (referring to their usual status as overworked sidemen), you might be forgiven for thinking this is another Southern rock band, but the band is led by two veteran Philly-area jazzers (drummer D.A. Jones and bassist Danny Greenberg), who have assembled a tight group of young and energetic players to create rip-roaring music that sounds like it came from the ‘70s era of L.A. Express and Crusaders and even Miles’ funky forays of the time. On their new release, “X”, tunes like “Massapoag Jaunt,” “Drive By Booty” and “Feed the Ferals” keep the feet moving and the heart pumping. Several members contribute songs, with trumpeter Tom Horton’s title track and “Psychostatic” and Greenberg/Jones’ “Jonesberg” showing the Miles influence most clearly, while saxophonist Jason Mescia’s “Insomnia” shows the mules have the heart and skill to pull off a ballad as well.

August 30 2009

John Book for This Is Book’s Music

Review: Rented Mule’s “X”

Great jazz gets me going, funky jazz has me sold, so when you combine the two genuinely, I’m wanting to shake what’s left and just get locked into the grooves they’re slicing left and right. Now add to that a bit of fusion and what might sound like a collision ready to get ugly, it’s perfect in the hands of Rented Mule, who combine these elements successfully on X (self-released).

They may call it jazz-rock, perhaps in the vein of Santana’s mid-70’s output, and you would come very close, but Carlos Santana always flirted with jazz without ever pushing it to the side (at least in that era of his career). X sounds a bit like Frank Zappa if he wanted to jam with Tower Of Power, complete with great musicianship and arrangements, and a tightness that you want to somehow get inbetween in order to, in your mind, truly feel its magic. The rhythm section of bassist Danny Greenberg and drummer Don “DA” Jones are the bands core, and with them the entire band follow while not being afraid to share their individual qualities in their instruments. It’s loose and funky, and when there is a guitar solo (duties of which are exchanged between Pete McRae, Ron Budesa), it takes the music on another playing field. It’s very much in the spirit of those jazz/funk/fusion albums of the mid to late 70’s, where jazz was splintering into more directions yet keeping to the integrity of the music.

They’re more than capable of backing any vocalist if they wanted to, but this is an all instrumental album, which is perfect. Solid from start to finish, I’d like to see these guys become a house band for a talk show, or maybe do some movie soundtracks.

August 2009

Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj - Improvijazzation Nation

Rented Mule - X: There is only ONE way to listen to these kats - LOUD!!! I actually had a bit of a ruff time findin' information about the band... players were D.A. Jones, Dan Greenburg, Paul Rodgers, Jason Mescia, Pete McRae & Napolean Black - & people, these dudes know how to purvey that FONK!!!!  You can hear samples at their MYSPACE page, & they're high enough quality to hip you to the fact that this band is GOIN' somewhere FAST!  My enthusiasm for the music they're playing probably has something to do with the fact that (unless I'm reading things wrong), these are all ORIGINAL compositions... but it's also because they are one of the tightest groups I've listened to in 2009!  The opener, "Massapoag Jaunt", is my favorite track - just bounces right on along.  Another reason I'm diggin' on this band so much is that they've managed to combine one HECK of an "age range", if you will, & are very culturally diverse, as you'll see when you watch "Feed The Ferals" - it's the CD version you'll want to hear, though... excellent recording all the way through the album!  I'm most highly impressed with this music/group & expect you'll be hearing much MORE from them... they get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best red-hot funky jazz"!   Lovin' this!  Rotcod Zzaj


“If you’re looking to add a bit of bite to your Jazz show check out Rented Mule. A little edgy but still straight-ahead enough to please traditional Jazz fans these guys are not afraid to explore the boundaries of Jazz.”

Mike Reisz WDPS Dayton, Ohio

July 2009
Thomas R. Erdmann reviews “X” at

Rented Mule is the musical union of Philadelphia natives Don “D.A.” Jones and Dan Greenberg.  Drummer percussionist Jones has performed with Sun Ra, Sonny Stitt, Pharoah Sanders, Gloria Gaynor, The Drifters, Bo Diddley and Bonnie Raitt, among others.  Some of the artists Bassist Greenberg has performed with include Bo Diddley, Mary Wells and the Doug Markley Band.  While the rest of the members of the band on this, their second CD, rotate around the album has a solid and consistent feel, sound and drive due to these Philly native sons and their locked together in perfect rhythm abilities.

The music on this recording is reminiscent of early Brecker Brothers material - hip with tight horn work in a fusion meets R&B style.  The recording’s first track, “Massapoag Jaunt,” features some intricate horn work between trumpeter Paul Rodgers and saxophonist Jason Mescia.  Todd Horton’s excellent alto trumpet solo is so dark in its tone you’d swear he’s playing into a carpet.

“Drive By Booty” continues to keep the excitement at a fever pitch.  Jones’ set playing kicks at just the right times and never goes for flash at the expense of artistic musical expression.  His playing throughout the album is hot when needed and tasty on the ballads.  As a bassist Greenberg is more about laying down the foundation rather than working to bring the spotlight to himself.  By not taking the emphasis away from the R&B and jazz-rock-backbeat compositions Greenberg shows class, so often lacking in younger musicians.

Another highlight of the recording is “Becoming” which has a nice sound reminiscent of Seawind’s instrumental pieces.  This mellow Mescia composition features a sweetly oriented Pete McRae guitar solo before Paul Rodgers comes into blow down some long eighth note phrases in his all too brief solo. 

If there is a problem with the recording it lies in the recording technique itself.  Sometimes the bass doesn’t sounds stuffy, lacking a crisp attack that would have helped accentuate certain compositions, such as “Mamadou Ba.”  This small problem, however, doesn’t take away from how nice it is to again here new compositions in the old funky Brecker Brothers style.

Reviewed by: Thomas R. Erdmann

Rented Mule – X CD - Reviewed by CHRIS SPECTOR - “MIDWEST RECORD”

RENTED MULE/X: Two cats that have been around forever and played with everyone round up some like minded young bloods for a set that’s an homage to the accessible side of Miles’ funk excursions of the 70s and the like minded works of his acolytes. Managing to be original and not derivative, this has the special sauce those looking for that look back are looking for. A tasty retro slice of fusion before it descended into yukiness.

Volume 32/Number 218
June 5, 2009
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
©2009 Midwest Record

Rented Mule – X CD - Reviewed by Rudolf Radnai - “Instrument Page” - Hungary

A Rented Mule együttes (Don „D.A.” Jones) és (Dan Greenberg) jazz zenészek agyszüleménye. Mindketten Philadelphiában élnek és eddigi zenei pályafutásuk megalapozta hírnevűket a Fusion Jazz és a Rhythm & Blues világában. Don „D.A.” Jones fiatal dobosként Phil Lightfoot, Daryl Brown és Gerry Brown szárnyai alatt bontakoztatta ki tehetségét, majd olyan hatalmas egyéniségekkel lépett fel, mint Sun Ra, Sonny Stitt, Pharoah Sanders és Gloria Gaynor. Az együttes másik alapítója Dan Greenberg bőgős, aki nem kevésbé híres előadókkal szerepelt, többek között Bo Diddley, Brend Smith és Krunch nevét érdemes megemlítenünk. A két alapító jó kis együttest hozott össze, a tagok nemcsak kiváló zenészek, de jó zeneszerzők is a hangszereléshez is értenek. A lemezen izgalmas zene hallható, amely az első hangtól az utolsóig leköti a hallgató figyelmét. Első lemezük a 2007-ben megjelent Rented Mule után az X című lemez is igen sikeresnek ígérkezik.

Joost Van Steen
Jazz & Blues Tour Radio - The Netherlands 5/29/09

“Great Great Great CD! It will be my pleasure to give it airplay as much and as soon as possible…”

Bryan Wilczak
Life & Times of Utica

Rented Mule full of ‘old fogies’ and ‘budding veterans’ of jazz

CLINTON - You only need to talk to D.A. Jones, the drummer and co-founder of the jazz group Rented Mule, for a few minutes before you realize he loves music and really loves to play it. He rattles off a library of musicians’ names and album titles in a steady stream, and his discussion of his group quickly veers back and forth between excited descriptions and sage-like journeyman wisdom. For him, Rented Mule doesn’t seem to be a band as much as an extension of his personality. Rented Mule, based out of Philadelphia, Penn., is a collective of musicians who have all done hard time as session musicians and with a host of other performers, a list which includes Sun Ra, Bo Diddley, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, and many, many others. In a sense, the group has allowed them to stretch out and let loose, where before they sometimes had to keep in line, to be faithful to a recording, and also to receive a paycheck.

“Someone tells you, ‘Play this, bop bop bop,’ and you play ‘Bop bop bop,’ because you’re playing for a living, and that’s what you do, and that’s fine for that,” says Jones. “But with us, we try to keep it loose.”

The group was founded by Jones and bass player Dan Greenberg, and features Jason O’Mara on saxophones, Marcell Bellinger on trumpet, Pete McRae on guitar, and Camille G. Brown and Napoleon Black on keyboards and percussion respectively.

The group’s name comes from the saying, put in a variety of ways, which states that a rented mule is worked much harder by its handlers than an animal they actually owned. It’s an apt name for a group of players whose resumes all boast lengthy lists, and who always strive to bring excitement and energy to their playing.

“We want to have good music with great solos, and keep it up and exciting,” says Jones. “One of the things a lot of us have done is more traditional jazz and bebop gigs, and people just sit there, and it’s more low key. Improvising in jazz doesn’t have to be just all cerebral. We try to make it funky or danceable.”

A typical Rented Mule set list, Jones says, will be split equally between pre-arranged song structures and improvising off the songs themselves. Horn lines or other musical cues will be put in at certain intervals so each member knows where they are at in each piece, but the rest is left to chance and spur-of-the-moment gut instinct. Aiding them in finding these moments is the fact that the group is made up of older, more seasoned players, and younger, budding veterans, who balance each other out and each bring what they have to the table. Jones laughingly calls himself one of the group’s “old fogies,” but says the younger members fuel his playing.

“All of our guys are seasoned jazz players, but the energy comes from the young guys,” Jones insists. “Do they have a lot of the technique and knowledge of some of the older players? No, but they bring in enthusiasm and excitement, that brings an edge to the band, and I love it! And every time they play, they get better.”

Which is not to say the group can’t pull off a more laid-back cut: they are also adept at playing slower grooves with more mellow, sometimes mournful horn playing, the kind of songs perfect for accompaniment for those lonely moments in the dead of night, the kind of smoky, blue-tinged solitude that a jazz instrumental often conjures. But on the concept of what a traditional jazz band is, however, Jones is adamant. “We are a jazz band in the real definition, not in the fact that most people think a real jazz band might be. The fact is, a real jazz band plays by improvising with each other. We do it in a high energy way that’s more funky. Well, I like to think it’s funky, but what do I know,” he says with a laugh.

An ardent supporter of jazz, Jones thinks that much of many kinds of music have their roots in the style, whether it is spiritual in nature or what the players are actually versed in. When prompted, he has no problem rattling off a variety of names who he thinks are helping to lead jazz into the future and yet uncharted territories.

“To be honest and truthful, I think most music is going to be more jazz-oriented,” he says thoughtfully. “When you listen to Top 40 on the radio, the more popular music, and even the smooth jazz, you can tell it’s very programmed, and very organized, and they made sure they wanted it to sound that way. Yet, when you go to the show, it’s nothing like that. You might laugh when I say it, but if you go see Beyonce, let me tell you... she has one of the best drummers out there, she has a tenor sax player who has a jazz album, a trumpet player who is an amazing jazz trumpet player. They follow the charts, but there’s parts of the show where Beyonce just lets them play, and they never do the same thing twice. That improv all comes from jazz.”

For Jones and his bandmates, music has many more areas to go and explore, and Rented Mule is aimed at being part of that tradition to move ever onward. It may be a long way away from playing “Bop bop bop,” but that’s the kind of group that Rented Mule is. Rented Mule can be seen at the Clinton Art and Music Festival August 23, at 7:30 p.m. on the Clinton Village Green.


Don't judge books by covers. I almost did and almost missed out on some finely treated jazz.

See this terrible cd cover? Well, maybe you don't think it's bad, but this combined with some of the song titles made me think I was going to get into hip hop jazz for some reason. Not liking hip hop beats at all, it was lucky my eye rested on their self-proclaimed "jazz/fusion" listing, because that is what I like.

We've got Don Jones on drums, Joel Kunreuther on guitar, Frank Williams on percussion, Todd Horton on horns, Jason Mescia on sax and Dan Greenberg on bass, and together they give out with a sympathetic, energetic live sound that will win you over from the first five seconds. I hear whispers of Mancini in the lazy "Unintentional Insanity" and I hear some intentional weirdness in the horn harmonies of "A Walk in the Park w/jones" coming from the Zappa camp.

And I've had this delightful instrumental cd on repeat play - for the last five hours. Staying power, folks.

John Book
The Run-Off Groove

The jazz fusion enthusiasts known as Rented Mule call Philadelphia home, and their brand of jazz is heavily influenced by the jazz mixtures and hybrids of the mid to late 70's. As some jazz musicians flirted with accessibility, some moved towards a lighter sound while others became more soulful and funky. This is a bit on the soulful and funky side of jazz. The guys in the band have played with a diverse range of artists over the years, and together they create a sound that is loose and tight at the same time, complete with horns, a fierce bassist, and the kind of musicianship that comes from experience. That funkiness shows up in "Double D", coming off as if Weather Report and Return To Forever decided to jam with Tower Of Power and Bootsy Collins. “Thelonius Monster” grooves on the Steely Dan side of things, “Unintentional Insanity” would fit well by a jazz band on any late night talk show, and for some ultra stank funky doo doo vibes, there’s the pungent “Trout Sandwich”, with bassist Dan Greenberg digging deep with his thumb while the group (Don “D.A.” Jones on drums, Frank Williams on percussion, Jason Mescia on tenor sax, Todd Horton on trumpet, electric trumpet, and flugelhorn, and Joel Kunreuther on guitar) sound like Miles Davis jamming with Primus and Gov’t Mule, quite progressive in its approach compared to the rest of the album.

Some of the songs sound fairly standard in their arrangements, but branching out (as they do in “Trout Sandwich”) shows the true power of this band when they allow a groove to take over and each of them build amongst each other to create a really nasty sound (and that’s nasty in a good way).

Peter Kuller
Radio Adelaide

"Rented Mule is an attractive Jazz/Fusion group which no doubt will be
well received by my younger listeners and create an interest in Jazz in general."