This recording is a radical departure from guitarist Carl Orr's previous high-voltage fusion output, and on first listening one can be lulled into a false sense of smoothness brought on by commercial aspirations. However, as the title suggests, there is much more to Deep Down than a cursory scratching at the surface would suggest.
The sound is warm and familiar, and anyone with a penchant for Blue Note organ trios with Grant Green or early George Benson will be served well here. There are also some rather lush classical overdubbed acoustic guitar pieces, plus one or two solo efforts where Orr plays all instruments, apart from some junglist drum programming by Ernie McKone. Indeed, three distinct recording sessions appear to have gone into making this album, but they are nicely integrated into a pleasing whole.
The disc kicks off with the first of five organ trio tunes, "Stand Alone, a classic 5/4 swing piece with a catchy but simple tune. Orr uses a hollow-body jazz guitar here and his tone is clear but mellow. Drummer Nic France keeps the whole thing bubbling along nicely, and the guitarist shows tasteful restraint throughout. Tracks such as "Peace by Peaceful Means and "People Power, whose titles themselves tell us much about the writer's motivation for the album's direction, amply express his depth of thought and feeling.
Orr can also trade chops with the finest, however, and on the drum-n-bass flavoured "11th hour, he and Butch Thomas do get down to some mean blowing, while France's excellent live drums replace McKone's sequenced work on the programmed version. Even in the midst of these fiery salvos, however, there is a simplicity of expression and execution which are the trademarks of a craftsman at his best and Orr plays with energy, directness and spontaneity throughout, putting his own stamp on this classic format.
"Precious Baby Boy, "Nam Shin and "Isolation are all short, almost classical etudes, the former featuring a particularly lovely theme built on parallel harmonies. Two tracks are dedicated to departed friends, including the tender ballad "Nothing Can Hurt Her Now, another organ trio track.
Deep Down is exactly what it says, rich in emotion in a soulful, bluesy way, still retaining high technical proficiency, albeit in a subtle setting. The production is studied and clear, lending a relaxed vibe to the sound. The title track is a romantic bossa nova, apparently inspired by the classy, sophisticated music of Burt Bacharach.
Although this wide detour from Orr's normal musical path explores a more chilled-out, soulful area, he's managed to convey a deeply felt emotional sensibility through a warm, accessible medium. Whilst this music can be used as a soundscape for your favourite form of relaxation or dinner party, this well of heartfelt feelings can only be plumbed by going deep down into the very core of the music. Put your CD player on loop, turn down the lights and dive into this beautiful album.
Personnel: Carl Orr: electric and acoustic guitar; Pete Whittaker: organ; Nic France: drums; Christian
Brewer: alto saxophone (1,4); Butch Thomas: tenor and soprano saxophone (3,4): Julian Bury,
bass (2,5): Steve Rose: piano (8); Ernie McKone: programming (10).