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Smith/Blake/Osgood/Provis: Hammond Rens (2005)

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Smith/Blake/Osgood/Provis: Hammond Rens How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

During the opening moments of Hammond Rens, you're told that you're in for music that comes from the heart, "not plastic, and over the course of the next two-plus hours you are treated to a freewheeling organ quartet that does anything but pretend. Featuring organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, saxophonist Michael Blake, drummer Kresten Osgood, and percussionist Anders Provis, Hammond Rens is more about feeling the moment and improvising from the physical, rather than the mental.

Recorded in March of 2002, the quartet consistently finds the groove of whatever composition it's playing, be it a Lucky Thompson tune or an original, and consistently leaps to new heights from there. No overarching concept, no grand musical statements—simply music that feeds the crowd that feeds the band in a beautiful cycle.

Blake often employs a boisterous tone that is full of excitement. Using a few recognizable phrases from his own repertoire, he lays down solos that sound inspired, never coasting, as sometimes can happen during blowing sessions. His two-and-a-half-minute multi-horn solo intro to Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Three for Dizzy develops nicely—and although he obviously bows to the song's originator and structure, Blake sounds unique in how he develops the core of the song, punctuated by Smith's punchy chords. He continues to employ the two-horn approach, and in typical organ trio fashion he lays down some exquisite balladry that leads seamlessly into his tenor solo.

Smith and the drummers hold down their respective chairs beautifully as well, and while the organist has never received the acclaim bestowed on masters like Jimmy Smith, he has created his own niche and touchstone sound. He is obviously having fun here, laying everything out to bear. His solos run the gamut of the Hammond's vocabulary and rarely grate, even to ears which may be sensitive to the organ's sound.

Osgood and Provis hold down the percussion chairs with a single mindset. When they're locked so tightly together, there is rarely any clue that there are four hands at work here instead of just one maniacal drummer. Osgood in particular once again shows his talent for creation with some outstanding solo work, never giving into bombast, just digging deliciously deep grooves. Being mixed up front with their bandmates lends the rhythm section a feeling of immediacy that is hard to dismiss.

This is a nitty-gritty recording that will likely satiate any greasy appetite desiring strong playing and originality in a live setting. Closing with "Like Lonnie, the band gets the audience clapping early on. Smith works his organ for everything it's worth, punctuating the high end while locked into a groove with Osgood and Provis that makes you bob and weave with the music. Things quiet down behind Blake's soprano solo as he slowly builds back up the tension for another climatic release, a development that's indicative of the whole album: tension and release with sounds straight from the heart—no plastic.

Track Listing: CD1: Collins; The World Awakes; The Makings Of You; Three For Dizzy; London Pride; Jens Bloch And Rahsaan Take A Break From The Choir Of Angels To Jam A Little. CD 2: Im Black (Dedicated to Alvin Queen); Chop Suey; The Beat-Up Blues; Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms); Like Lonnie.

Personnel: Michael Blake: tenor and soprano saxophone; Dr. Lonnie Smith: organ; Kresten Osgood: drums; Anders Provis: ghostpercussion.

Record Label: Ilk Music


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