Kyle Asche: Nite Vidual

Mel Rhyne was Wes Montgomery’s regular organ sideman during the guitarist’s Riverside period, and lately he has recorded with top-notch Chicago- and New York-based jazzmen. On his modal original, “Nite Vidual”, Rhyne locks in a groove with drummer George Fludas. Rhyne’s abbreviated solo is brisk, but effective, then his energetic comping on the vamp leads to hard-edged, fluid improvising by Asche, as the guitarist plays an extended solo featuring several Montgomery-influenced ideas.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Mike LeDonne: In The Bag

At its regular jam sessions at Smoke Jazz Club in Manhattan, this limitless house band gives the listening audience a touch of vintage groove. On the Nat Adderley tune “In The Bag”, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and guitarist Peter Bernstein take short two-chorus solos, then yield to leader Mike LeDonne for an extended four-chorus solo. He starts with a progressive, twitching tone, and after a series of low-volume funky teasers, shifts into high gear and unleashes a series of blues-drenched licks. LeDonne is obviously very comfortable in this environment, and before the rest of the band enters for the last head statement, he finishes off with a full-range smear up to the top register of the manual.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Barbara Dennerlein: Lost Friends

German organ star Barbara Dennerlein has been a presence on the European jazz scene since her teens. Her many albums show a far-reaching scope. This track is a solo organ excursion, beginning with an extended opening that makes use of tense overtones and pipe organ-like settings. Later, she establishes a strict tempo, stating the melody and accompanying herself with the foot pedals. The tune’s somber theme unfolds with a strict bass motion, and Dennerlein solos while remaining focused on keeping the melody present. About two minutes before the end, she adds another layer of organ pads, adding the fullness of a back-up chorus to her explorative solo musings.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Henry Threadgill: Song Out Of My Trees

While Amina Claudine Myers has been a respected organist for decades (as a member of the AACM and Lester Bowie’s New York Organ Ensemble), she has also been a star on the piano (with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra). Frequently Myers gravitates back to piano, possibly to showcase her outstanding vocals. “Song Out Of My Trees”, although not a recent recording, was chosen to highlight her organ style within the avant-garde context, far removed from bop organists like Jimmy Smith, and closer to the searching style of late-period Larry Young.

Henry Threadgill’s animated alto sax and the searing guitar of Ed Cherry are supported by Myers on a skittering melody line. The Leslie is swirling fast from the introduction, and Myers holds sustained chords in the upper register for a stinging effect, while her relaxed walking bass provides a counter-balance. She plays a solo that leads off with sparse, bluesy statements, and she lets this sentiment settle before taking on heavier, harmonically rich ideas employing rapid-fire keyboard slaps. Her solo mixes in some choice gospel inflections, before Threadgill contributes a bright-toned, vocal-driven alto solo.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Tony Monaco: Slow Down Sagg

When organ wizard Tony Monaco plays live with his Toronto Trio, the audience shares in the energy as the musicians on stage let loose. The Jimmy Smith tune used here is a model of simplicity, and Vito Rezza’s funky drums get the jam get going quickly and keep it burning on a wide-open groove. Guitarist Ted Quinlan offers up slices of soulful, hard-swinging blues phrases. Soon Monaco takes a vigorous, no-holds-barred solo, with distortion and some pitch-bending effects close to the end. When the fun is over, a club member’s disoriented gaze might happen on his or her neighbor, only to ask “What just happened? Where am I? Why am I covered in sweat?”

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jonathan Kreisberg: Five Bucks A Bungalow

Although he began his career as a pianist in the post-Corea/Hancock vein, Gary Versace has developed a long list of activities on organ as well. Here Versace is using his thoughtful approach on an up-tempo Kreisberg original. The tune is a new head on the sus-chord blues changes of Ron Carter’s “Eighty-One.” Kreisberg’s nimble solo statements, full of modern linear approaches, are supported by the subdued comping of Versace. What is interesting here is how Versace’s fast bass walk locks in with the driving rhythmic motion of Ferber. Versace heats up around 4:15, with a few fourths that he hammers home before he really starts burning. This is a group of young New Yorkers that know how to stretch, and they sound like they are having fun playing the blues.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Rhoda Scott: Danny Boy/ Lift Every Voice And Sing

Rhoda Scott knows how to work the sound of gospel into her jazz songs, but her medley of the traditional “O Danny Boy” and the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is something unique. Scott’s hymn-like introduction builds the melody of the first song with all the rhetoric of a country preacher. Her mastery of the instrument allows her great freedom to mix musical elements. Bridging these two songs might be a stretch, and it is difficult to know what Scott is saying with this one, but her musical mastery lets all the brilliance of her gospel style come out. With a prolonged, orchestral ending, Scott provides plenty of excitement by the close of the track.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jesse Van Ruller: Tear Jam

In contrast to the large doses of “chicken grease” usually found on jazz organ recordings, “Tear Jam” is a plaintive jazz waltz with a warm and introspective beauty. Guitar virtuoso Jesse Van Ruller has a creamy texture to his tone. The music is carefully controlled and very delicate. The gifted organist Sam Yahel occasionally plays outside of the chord changes, but it always sounds like he has a plan to snake his way back inside. His lyrical solo starts with a series of short fragments, and then develops with more searching lines into a far-reaching and expressive treatise. Yahel doesn’t add too much bite here, but his fluid lines cut through easily. Yahel makes great use of the organ’s volume pedal, which makes his chords sway and swell as he guides the band’s groove.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Will Bernard: Magpie

Taken at a fast tempo, “Magpie”’s jittery melody features a break that sets up a pyramid-like line. The whole band lays down a furiously funky groove, but the screaming organ riffs of Medeski sometimes covers up Bernard’s adept guitar solo. This is nonetheless a tight-knit group, and the intensely greasy solo by Medeski is fun to hear. His organ settings seem centered in hard rock, then altered by a phaser effect that adds a jolt to the notes from the middle range. Once the swirling of the Leslie stops, one is still shaking after Medeski’s powered-up jam on this track.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Matt Wilson: Free Range Chicken

A very simple minor pentatonic vamp sets up a major departure with a fun, quirky melody composed by Matt Wilson. Larry Goldings steps out with a funky vamp, reminiscent of his work with Maceo Parker’s band. Terell Stafford’s trumpet (augmented with plunger mute) lends a touch of gut-bucket style, with growls and rips, but also economy. Goldings rocks out during a very experimental solo, and lights a fire under the rest of the rhythm section when he changes his presets during his solo. The chicken here may be clawing and scratching its way out of the coop, hoping to see the light of day.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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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

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Dr. Lonnie Smith: Sweet Dreams

The nuances that made much pop music of the ‘80s so much fun to listen to are carefully deconstructed in this voodoo séance treatment by Dr. Lonnie Smith and his band. Smith’s introduction with fluty, music-box-like tinkering followed by watery whole-tone runs sets up the entrance of a bass drum and tambourine beating out a dirge rhythm. Saxophonist Donald Harrison solos impressively with tasteful phrasing. Smith is up next with a solo marked by economical note choices. Even if he doesn’t shred with fast runs here, funkiness is always in good supply. His solo rises in intensity as he moves farther up the upper manual’s range and as he adds grit to his already growling tone. The last solo, by guitarist Balitsaris is full of twangy blues expression. This is a theatrical version of an already dramatic pop hit, and Smith & Co. have made sure to keep their soulfulness at center stage.

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jimmy Smith: Just Friends

I once heard Brian Wilson explain that the single most important factor in recording a hit song was to make sure it was around three minutes in duration. People's attention span, it seems, can't handle anything much longer—well, at least not after a long day of catching waves down by the pier. Maybe nobody ever told Jimmy Smith. With track such as “Back at the Chicken Shack,” "The Duel" and “The Champ,” he routinely pushed beyond the eight-minute mark, and "The Sermon" is quite a homily, lasting for more than twenty minutes. On "Just Friends" he continues his crusade for the long jazz track, stretching out for a quarter of an hour of medium-tempo grooving. Yet, pace the Beach Boy, you are unlikely to find this music ennui-inducing. Smith's solo is fascinating, less funky than usual, relying rather on very raw singe-note lines. It almost sounds like a piano solo translated to the organ—something of an anomaly for this artist. But Coleman (on alto) and Morgan are also in top form. Also check out Smith's comping, which ranges from church organ celebrations to jagged thrusts into the middle of the horn player's hindquarters. Just friends? Maybe after the session.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

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Larry Slezak: No Worries

This song's title is absolutely perfect as I'm not sure it would have been possible to come up with a more perfect synopsis of the music. The secret weapon here is the B3 of Jose-Miguel Yamal. He swings, slinks and grooves nonstop, giving extra shine to the solos. I'm a sucker for guitar so I totally dug Clayton Dyess' solo flight. It was then trumpter Dennis Dotson's turn to burn, and that he did. Even so, it's leader Slezak who really takes off on the tenor. Not to be outdone, the secret weapon himself then has a go at it on the B3. It's a pure joy to hear. In a live setting, I can just imagine that tradin' fours mayhem that might ensue between these guys. Great stuff.

June 16, 2009 · 0 comments

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Clare Fischer: This is Always

“This is Always” is a gem of a song, one of those ‘unknown standards’ by Harry Warren that gets played and recorded every once in a great while. Fischer’s version is unforgettable, primarily because Fischer is a master of orchestral color and of alternate harmony. Jimmy Zito plays the melody with the organ taking over, and the band changes key as the organ continues. The last section of the song as written for the full band is one of those four-bar phrases that could only have been written by Fischer; dramatic, full-textured, harmonically fascinating and beautiful to hear. In fact, I admit I have heard this short track hundreds of times and always finding something new to appreciate. Such is the art of Clare Fischer.

May 20, 2009 · 0 comments

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