Richie Hart: Greasy Street (2005)
Richie Hart isn't breaking down any barriers with his music. If you're looking for intellectual listening, Greasy Street isn't the record for you. That said, I loved it. Hart and his compatriots (Rick Petrone, Joe Corsello, Clifton Anderson, Pete Levin, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Jerry Weldon) have created a blues-inflected whale of a good time.
Greasy Street is fun all the way through. The musicians' wry sense of humor is evident in both the tunes and the arrangements. Who would've ever thought that Coltrane's "Naima could have a bossa feel? And not only is it different, it works. Petrone's bass line is beautifully conceived, and Levin's piano and Hart's Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar provide color. Hart interprets the melody on his electric with as much emotion as is needed to pay tribute to the writer.
The title piece (written by Petrone and Corsello) hearkens back to early New Orleans jazz with its arrangement and collective improvisation coda. It's especially poignant in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and Hart's guitar solo embodies the happy-go-lucky attitude of the fallen city. "Greasy Street" sets the stage for the rest of the album, relaying the message "If you're patient, you'll get a taste of everything. Each musician gets ample solo space, and while Hart's guitar frequently lies at the fore, no instrument dominates. While the feel of a jam session is inescapable, the musicians play together, complementing each other beautifully. Corsello is a chameleon, following each soloist's path and spurring them all to greater heights.
Hart's lone songwriting contribution, "East Coast Blues, is most notable for Weldon's tenor solo. He bursts into the fray with a jarring lick, perfectly complementing Smith's laid back Hammond solo. Weldon eschews the blues form to construct a supremely melodic statement before snapping back to the theme. And the rest of the band follows in lock-step.
Hart obviously owes a lot to Wes Montgomery. His relaxed style and light but full tone reflect the late great guitarist. Like Montgomery, Hart is obviously a master of his instrument, giving the impression that any note is possible at any time. But listening to the band romp through classics such as "Frim Fram Sauce and "I'll See You In My Dreams, one can forget the similarities and simply enjoy the music. This album serves as a reminder that great music can put a smile on your face and keep it there.
Track Listing: Greasy Street; Frim Fram Sauce; Tyrone; Naima; East Coast Blues; Third Plane; Recorda Me; Down Here On The Ground; Mellow Mood; I'll See You In My Dreams.
Personnel: Richie Hart: electric and acoustic guitars; Rick Petrone: bass; Joe Corsello: drums. With Clifton Anderson: trombone (1); Pete Levin: keyboards (2,4,6-9); Dr. Lonnie Smith: Hammond B-3 organ (1,3,5); Jerry Weldon: tenor saxophone (1-3,5).