Jazz Alley (Seattle)
October 31, 2000
Amidst good tidings, packed house and festive d'cor, replete with onstage Christmas tree, the Three Jazzmen journeyed to the West, Seattle's Jazz Alley, thereby annunciating the holy rebirth of jazz guitar-organ funk. The jazzmen in question are none other than virtuosi: Pat Martino, organist Joey De Francesco, and drummer Billy Hart.
The set took off on high and blazing notes with the Charlie Parker's, "Scrapple from the Apple." It was as if they had hit the ground running from their snowy Chicago flight in sprinter's Nikes. Martino's well-groomed appearance is that of an aging, but ever agile silver fox wrapped in soft dark cashmere. He is one of a handful of guitarists who picks and fingers his way through high-speed complex changes as effortlessly as talking about the weather. This is even more amazing given his apparent full recovery from a cerebral aneurysm suffered many years ago. Martino presents an interesting visual when he solos. In his meditative, almost prayerful stance, he twists and gyrates like a supplicant at the Wailing Wall, while his shining red and blond Gibson guitar almost appears to blow smokelike a swinging censer at the waist of a Holy Roman Priest. Martino's playing, while non-derivative, stayed near the general terrain of Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith's landmark "Midnite Blue" recording. There was also a taste of jazz legend guitarist, Tal Farlow, to be heard in Martino's phrasing.
29 year-old Joey De Francesco is already a young yeoman, with credits including a stint with jazz Olympian Elvin Jones. Joey D., a mountain of manor at least a large hill of one, gives the term "body English" new meaning. While bobbing, weaving, and head-dancing, so as to eke out every last scintilla of soul from his fried chicken riffs, he simultaneously kicks walkin' bass with his left foot on his massive Hammond B-3 organ. The effect was pleasantly dislocating; I suddenly felt like I was in a Southern Baptist Church, groovin' with the preacherman's every lick. I hear the fine influences of Larry Young, Jimmy Smith, and the venerable Richard "Groove" Holmes in his playing.
Veteran drummer Billy Hart always knocks me out. His drumming was a vital voice on Herbie Hancock's seminal "Crossings" and "Sextant" albums, and is heard on over six hundred major league jazz recordings. Tonight he took what would have merely been an adequate "genre" performance, and, giving it a B-12 injection of his unique energy, inspired the proceedings to a highly memorable and enthusiastic level. Hart exhibits a relaxed, natural concentration that enables him to take incredibly adventurous and creative rhythmic leaps. Somehow, he always lands on his feet. His sense of dynamics and volume modulation is unsurpassed among modern jazz drummers.
The second tune was a soulful version of the famed Miles Davis hit, "All Blues", with Martino giving a sparse and round-toned solo to make his blues low-down, and De Francesco "organ-izing" to somehow manage a lament with a smile. Interesting eight-bar solos were traded among the players before taking the tune out. The set also included an unnamed ballad and original compositions by Martino entitled, "El Hombre" and "Catch." Audience response was so enthusiastic that the house invited patrons to stay for the second set. Many did. The band appears nightly through Thursday.