Joey DeFrancesco: I Thought About You

Organ marvel Joey DeFrancesco is best known for carrying on the tradition of bebop, which was set forth by his mentor Jimmy Smith. He has also broadened his discography by showcasing some of the sidemen he has come to know well. One of the highlights of Organic Vibes, an album with Bobby Hutcherson, is this version of “I Thought About You”. As the band takes this straight-forward ballad for a spin, the mood is of a softly lit supper club. Hutcherson’s crisp, glass-like tone allows the sweetness of the standard’s melody to come forward. He really knows the subtlety of his instrument, and DeFrancesco’s support acts as a deferential complement. As DeFrancesco emerges from underneath Hutcherson’s beautifully spare solo, the heat turns up, and the organist uses a percussion setting throughout his solo for more punch on his many fast runs. After the closing notes on the track, a voice (possibly the sweet Hutcherson) proudly proclaims, “If you don’t like that, you don’t like ice cream!”

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments


Stan Getz: I Thought About You

In the mid-1980s, Stan Getz was living in Menlo Park, California—famous for start-ups and high tech, rather than jazz—just down the street from 3000 Sand Hill Road, that exclusive high-rent enclave of venture capitalists. Getz was in start-up mode too, reinventing himself from the ground up, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly, and associating with professors and community leaders who were a much more stabilizing influence on him than many of his jazz connections from the past.

But it was a hard place to find a rhythm section that lived up to his finicky standards. Getz was difficult to please as a bandleader, and wanted the right pulse, and no rushing, the proper dynamic range, and a rich harmonic palette underpinning his solos. Stan could co-exist briefly with West Coasters in the band, but for the important gigs he typically preferred to fly in a rhythm section from the East Coast if the money were available to do so. He was especially happy with the line-up on this project (Kenny Barron on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums) and invariably played at a very high level when they were on stage with him. Fans of this artist will never agree on which period of Getz's career produced the finest music, but it would be hard to top the tenorist of this period—sober, alert, impassioned, confident.

Yet, maddeningly, Getz hadn't been in the studio for a leader date in ages, and many fans had no idea of how well he was playing at this point. As strong as the Concord releases of the early 1980s were, Getz seemed even more commanding now. Those who heard him live wondered when he would make a record to document this period of intense music-making. We are fortunate that Dr. Herb Wong managed to reach terms with the tenorist and bring this band into the Music Annex in Menlo Park when the group was on the West Coast for performances. Take after take demonstrated Getz's brilliance and the band's chemistry, but perhaps especially so on this heartfelt ballad. Getz would sometimes make fun of this song in concert, sharing an off-color witticism based on its lyrics ("I turned a trick on a train..."); but this was standard practice for the artist, and the jokes often merely indicated some self-consciousness at how much emotion he was channeling into his playing. Perhaps his comment about the Voyage session, that this was the "first date that my head was completely clear," is an exaggeration (or perhaps not), but it is hard to argue with the results. In a career filled with outstanding ballad performances, this one ranks among the finest.

The good times would not last. A year later, Getz was diagnosed with cancer. And though he would continue to perform and record at a very high level for some time to come, this record will always remind me of a glorious period of poise and promise in the life and times of this complex, intensely creative artist.

August 30, 2009 · 0 comments


Carl Fontana: I Thought About You

Carl Fontana's unique post-bop personality is on full display on this track, one of the signature songs of his career. His performance of “I Thought About You” demonstrates a deeply personal and innovative approach to improvisation. His relaxed, playful trombone voice is apparent from the first presentation of the melody. He ducks out of the spotlight, however, in the second "A" of the melody, delicately improvising a countermelody behind Al Cohn's soft tenor saxophone. Fontana lets Cohn take the first solo, then comes in with his own personal approach for his choruses--always in the pocket and fully in control. He slowly works in a few impeccable double-time inflections, fitting them into the restrained tone of the solo. After a brief chorus by pianist Richard Wyands, Cohn and Fontana trade eights before sliding into a loose and interactive final presentation of the tune.

July 24, 2009 · 0 comments


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