Sleepwalking 1986

This review appeared in Rolling Rock, October 1986     

Jacob and the Denizens 
Boz-Line Records 

Review by Hank Toupein 

Sleepwalking, the latest offering from the interminably prolific Jacob Sewell, sees him team up again with atmospheric Missouri acid jazz ensemble the Denizens. The almost universal criticism levelled at their last release, 1985’s By Night, was the under-utilisation of saxophonist Manny Blonheim. This cannot be said of Sleepwalking though as Manny’s soprano sax weaves a constant web around Jacob’s falsetto exhortations. Add to that the production of jazz rock maestro Boz Scaggs, and this album was always going to outstrip its predecessor. 

Although there are several poppier cuts here like Circling the Block, Cool Poison and The Night Arrived, this album’s strength lies in its sprawling sax-driven instrumentals. Taxi Driver which opens the record, takes you on a tour of the city’s seedy underbelly, your guide - the soprano saxophone, while Leave Me Where You Found Me has Jacob’s silky Stratocaster playing counterpoint to Blonheim’s unbearably smooth alto, set against a soundscape of mellow funk and inner city street atmos. 

However, as silly as this may sound, the real high point of the record is the only track without saxophone! Title track Sleepwalking recalls the slick minimal funk of Boz Scaggs’s Lowdown, and manages to impress despite its complete lack of woodwind. It has a high-hat heavy rhythm, scantily clad with intermittent guitar and electric piano and Jacob’s sparse falsetto telling the tale of a city in moral decline. Could this instant classic be a harbinger of an approaching saxless pop epoch? This reviewer seriously doubts it, but the glorious aberration that is this title track serves as testament to Jacob and his Denizens’ pop funk acid jazz acumen. 

7.5 Stars

See more of Jacob's back catalogue HERE


  1. Indeed. Sewell picks up the baton cast down by Bernard Herrmann's 'Taxi Driver' soundtrack, but where Hermann's saxophone sleaze is oppressive, Sewell/Blonheim appear to revel in the urban moral decay evoked by this instrumentation. I would add that Sleepwalking only functions as a highlight within the context so expertly established by Mannheim's sordid emissions.

  2. Sordid emissions. Hank Toupein wishes he had your turn of phrase!