The organ remains an appealing element in modern jazz and it's refreshing to hear how players not only keep the tradition alive but also move it forward.
Organ-X has been in existence for several years though Marcel Thomi took over at the keyboard only two years ago. With Roberto Brossard (guitar) and Elmar Frey (drums), the group knows how to swing up a storm, bring it down to a gorgeous ballad setting and turn a groove with the best of them. With the addition of reedman Roland vön Flue, the trio gets to that classic sax and organ sound (with some lovely clarinet work, too) on Plus. Thomi contributed several originals including the delicately funky opener "Beautiful Monday"; it has a childlike theme but soon inhabits a bluesy place. With tenor saxophone added, the group takes on Wes Montgomery's "Bock to Bock" and we can hear just how well these Swiss musicians have absorbed the snaky and soulful. After an expressive and simple guitar soloWes would be proudvön Flue enters for a smoking little ride that calls to mind the very best hard tenors from the past. The group also beautifully interprets two Jobim compositions: "O Morro Näo Te Vez" highlights the funky nature of the bossa nova while "Chovendo Na Roseira," a lesser known work, is primarily colored by sinewy clarinet. In both cases Thomi provides sensitive comping and a hearty but not overpowering solo voice. "How My Heart Sings" and "How Deep is the Ocean" demonstrate how the basic trio approaches a standard. The former starts slowly but moves into a middle groove while the latter is a gorgeous ballad reading that hardly gets above a whispercheck out Frey's brushes.
Unitrio's Page 1 is a traditional organ-saxophone (tenor and soprano)-drums comboDamien Argentieri, Frédéric Borey and Alain Tissot respectively. All bring tunes geared for the individual members as well as for the gestalt of the group. This trio has the lovely audacity to open the album with a gorgeous ballad, Argentieri's "Judith" and she must be a special woman indeed. The tenor states the melody but the drums and organ offer up majestic accompaniment. Tissot introduces his "Like a Cat in the Snow" in which some classically-colored brief flashes lead into a jaunty and exotic main theme. What propels this music and makes this truly feel like a Unitriothree-in-one, the trio as single unitis the sense of organic yet orchestrated composition. Borey's "Jack," for example, has particularly long and involved phrases making up the thematic material, each player with an integral role in the 'orchestral' sound. The listener can identify with the basic sound of the trio but what these players doindividually and as part of the overall structureis quite different.
Organist Brian Charette has a pretty interesting CVhe's studied classical piano, worked with Joni Mitchell, Lou Donaldson, Cyndi Lauper and more and done producing and engineering. Missing Floor finds him in what would be a standard organ trio format but his use of electronics and his adventurous approach make this an out-of-the-ordinary listening experience. Mention should be made upfront that the recording was done completely analog and the sound is immediate and powerful.
It might be too easy to suggest that Larry Young is the main inspiration for the tunes and playing here, but that seems the sonic world from which this album emerges. Charette digs deeply and differently into, for example, Wayne Shorter's "ESP," ably assisted by drummer Jochen Rueckert, and knocks out a quick, incisive version that opens up in a short time to reveal the tune's inherent richness and more. The group does the same with Woody Shaw's "Moontrane" and then, surprisingly, a funky version of "The Honeydripper". An even more startling transformation comes with the way Charette phrases and chords Rodgers-Hart's "Spring is Here". It truly does sound like a new season but one in which the flora are not so familiar. Surprisingly enough, most of the music on this head-turning set was created by just Charette and his drummer. But there are some more surprising sound extras here. Saxophonist Leon Gruenbaum plays some slashing alto on "Pings" and has a beautiful piano feature on "Wu Wei". On several of the other tracks he plays an instrument of his own invention, a samchillian. In combination with the composer on laptop, the enhanced sonic environment adds even greater depth to this heady and enriching set of new music.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Beautiful Monday; Bock to Bock; O Moro Nao Tem Vez; How my Heart Sings; After Midnight; Chovendo Na Roseir; Knocked Out; Nobody Else But Me; Funky Piece of Cake; How Deep is the Ocean.
Personnel: Marcel Thomi: organ; Roberto Brossard: guitar; Elmar Frey: drums; Roland von Flue; tenor saxophone.
Tracks: Judith; Like a Cat in the Snow; Croisements; Jack; For You; Plaisance; What About; Another Blouzzz.
Personnel: Damien Argentiere: organ; Frederic Borey: saxophone and clarinet; Alain Tissot: drums.
Tracks: Yu Fei; ESP; The Honeydripper; Wu Wei; Time Changes; Three Lights; Missing Floor; Standing Still; Spring is Here; Pings; Giant Deconstruction; Moontrane; Aleatron.
Personnel: Brian Charette: organ, laptop; Jochen Rueckert: drums; Leon Gruenbaum: saxophone, samchillian.