Since the organ-drums-guitar trio first came to prominence in the early ‘60s, many have tried and failed to recreate the impassioned, groove-laden drive of its most celebrated practitioners. Exit 13, the newest release by drummer Sylvia Cuenca, represents another such attempt, though, unlike so many before them, the trio here walks away with a measured yet boast-worthy triumph in soul-jazz.
Rounded out by organist Kyle Koehler and guitarist Dave Stryker, the Cuenca trio carves capable grooves throughout and at points even shines. Highlights include Stryker's "Miss C's Shuffle" and Koehler's "Big Ed," both of which are marked by rabble-rousing guitar solos and fine support by Cuenca. Countering this energy are two 'mood-ified' ballads, namely Henry Mancini's "Slow, Hot Wind" and Rodgers & Hart's "It's Easy to Remember." Again Stryker stands out, both in solo and support, while Koehler delivers some of his strongest, most thoughtful playing of the set. For her part, Cuenca offers a nice mix of power and restraint, showing that she is one of the finest drum accompanists on the scene today. Her cymbal work is particularly impressive, providing energetic yet unobtrusive color from start to finish.
The sole point of contention with Exit 13 is that the group doesn't open the throttle more often. At points one does wish for the reckless abandon that distinguished the great soul-jazz recordings of the ‘60s. On the other hand, the trio's patient, committed drive more than makes up for the few, negligible shortcomings at play.
So for all you Grant Green, Jimmy Smith, Big John Patton or Wes Montgomery fans out there, here is a chance to shed your nostalgia cap and embrace some fine present-day grooves.