John McLaughlin: Afro Blue

McLaughlin's energetic version of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" from After the Rain is a fully realized treatment of the tune most often associated with John Coltrane. McLaughlin, organist Joey DeFrancesco and Coltrane alumnus Elvin Jones on drums drive the tune as if it were one of those monster trucks going down a steep hill in Baja. McLaughlin mutes his chorused guitar sound a bit, which may be a detriment. But if you pay attention, his swinging line-playing evokes Coltrane's sax forays.

January 26, 2008 · 0 comments

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John McLaughlin: No Blues

McLaughlin's organ trio group The Free Spirits released its one and only album, Tokyo Live, in 1993. It is not one of my favorite McLaughlin groups because I was never really happy with the sound of John's guitar. In person and live it was a great band because you could see John playing. But on record, his sound was too close to Joey DeFrancesco's organ to tell them apart during unison playing. With that caveat out of the way, the band, with Dennis Chambers on drums, did a killer version of "No Blues." With unison playing less of a role in this tune, McLaughlin's blues chops are front and center. They are somewhat traditional in sense of form, but his bending of the notes downward in pitch and not upward creates yet another John McLaughlin trademark sound.

January 26, 2008 · 0 comments

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Joey DeFrancesco: Indiana

"Wow!" marveled Zoot Sims, watching the 1969 telecast as astronauts first set foot on the Moon. "Look at that! And I'm still playing 'Indiana'!" Thirty years later, Joey DeFrancesco was still playing "Indiana," a tune written in 1917. Thank God. Even for listeners not enamored of the Hammond B-3 organ-trio formation, this is one of those 11-minute jump-on-the-table scream-&-holler performances that will, as musicians say, swing you into bad health. Hell, this'll swing you into intensive care! Joey DeFrancesco, who always barrels his butt off (and, 'case you haven't noticed, that's a sizable appendage), outdoes himself. Wow! Listen to that!

November 19, 2007 · 0 comments

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Ken Clark: Eternal Funk

You’ve probably never heard of organist Ken Clark, but he deserves wider attention. “Eternal Funk” is a smoking blues number with a funk-rock beat and a catchy melody that sears itself into the brain. Clark doesn’t waste a note or resort to any B-3 gimmickry; instead he quietly escalates the intensity of the performance. Guitarist Mike Mele and Steve Chaggaris, who handle their roles more than ably, engage Clark in a mysterious huddle of an interlude at the halfway point that erupts into a craze of action, like a football team drawing up a play and then throwing a bomb for a touchdown.

November 18, 2007 · 0 comments

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Mark Whitfield: OGD (Road Song)

“OGD” is one of the most recognizable songs in Wes Montgomery’s catalogue, and yet Mark Whitfield’s trio, the Groove Masters, owns it here. Mark Whitfield and the Groove Masters is one of the best organ trio recordings to come along in recent years, and “OGD” is its highlight. In one measure Whitfield carefully searches for his notes, and in the next he picks with blazing speed. Dr. Lonnie Smith plays a single bass note for much of the tune, infusing it with a heart-pumping quality, and out of his hands spill some of the most soulful notions ever heard in the Eastern Hemisphere or anywhere else. Drummer Winard Harper doesn’t seek the spotlight, but his constantly changing propulsion is key to the dynamic feeling of the performance.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments

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Joey DeFrancesco: Sister Sadie

Using Jimmy Smith's classic Hammond B-3 organ trio lineup, Joey DeFrancesco demolishes the myth that Horace Silver tunes work best for horn players. "Sister Sadie" never sounded better, not even Silver's 1959 original. Around 4 minutes in, however, following a rocking solo that interpolates "Rock Around the Clock," DeFrancesco seemingly wraps it up too soon with an out chorus and a sustained chord. But then the guys unexpectedly recommence reboppin' like crazy for another 1½ minutes. The highest compliment we can pay is that this ranks with the most exciting trio recordings of the big kahuna himself, Jimmy Smith. Sister Sadistic!

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments

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Jimmy Smith: This Guy's in Love with You

The schmaltzy Burt Bacharach/Hal David pop song “This Guy’s in Love with You” was for a while something of a jazz standard (and it’s coming around again, with new versions by the Bad Plus and others). Its most natural-sounding incarnation is the one recorded by Jimmy Smith’s trio at an Atlanta club in 1968. Despite the recording’s obvious flaw – the inconsiderate crowd at Paschal’s La Carousel is heard talking throughout the tune – the trio puts on a soul-jazz master class. Donald Bailey’s drumming is clean and crisp, and George Benson’s smooth genius on the guitar is already on display. Smith lays low at first, holding down chords for Benson, and then comes alive with a solo that throws every conceivable B-3 idea at the chart.

October 28, 2007 · 0 comments

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Jimmy Smith: Walkin'

Jimmy Smith was the most important organist in jazz, the guy who turned the Hammond B-3 into a bona fide jazz instrument, and Groovin’ at Smalls’ Paradise is his greatest recording. A two-disc set drawn from a night at the famed Harlem jazz club, it burns and grooves like mad. “Walkin’” is taken at a nice middle tempo, Smith’s feet literally walking the familiar bassline on the pedals while his hands massage the keyboards. Guitarist Eddie McFadden’s solo is particularly bright and effusive, punctuated by Smith’s swirls and stabs. Smith’s own solo, which begins at the 4½-minute mark and runs for 5 whole minutes, tears up the keys with machine-gun rapidity. It ranks among his most invigorating moments on record. A perfect blues from a great trio.

October 28, 2007 · 0 comments

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