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From the Inside Out

Groovin in the Summer of Oh Six

By Published: July 11, 2006

Joey DeFrancesco
Organic Vibes
Concord Jazz
2006

Rooted in Philadelphia, the hometown of so many of his Hammond B-3 predecessors, Joey DeFrancesco knows soul-jazz organ grooves. And he seems to have studied their lessons well, as he's strung together the DownBeat Critics' Poll "Best Hammond B-3 player awards the past four years running.

DeFrancesco grooves these Organic Vibes in the serious jazz company of composer and vibraphone master Bobby Hutcherson throughout—as well as saxophonist George Coleman, a vital link in the Coltrane through Garrett saxophone lineage of Miles Davis, who graces with elegance the standards "Speak Low and "Somewhere in the Night.

DeFrancesco also continues to groove in the spirit of his friend, mentor and fellow Philly homeboy Jimmy Smith. Last year's Legacy, his tribute to/with Smith, ended up being Smith's last studio recording before his passing in February. DeFrancesco plays Jimmy Smith's 1959 Hammond B-3 organ on Organic Vibes, according to the credits.

Horns sit out of the nine-minute cruise through the classic "I Thought About You, which shines its solo spotlight completely on vibes and organ. Hutcherson later lifts the shades on another classic with his unaccompanied, lovingly rendered introduction to "My Foolish Heart, then simply keeps playing as the members of the rhythm section, including DeFrancesco, delicately assume their positions behind him... and stay in the background, keeping it a showpiece for this legendary vibes player. "I've always loved the sound of organ and vibes together, DeFrancesco says. "They're very similar but that combination really hasn't been done a lot.

Coleman's saxophone sound makes "Somewhere in the Night sound like classic bebop—meaty, sharp and robust—as organ nicely sets the table for solos on saxophone, vibes and guitar. Coleman kicks off "Speak Low in an extremely sharp style and tempo that suggests Davis' mercurial "free bop take (a mixture of bebop and free jazz) on this same material. DeFrancesco's solo sounds inspired by Coleman, and whips this warhorse to its finish.

This solid date—a truly old-school bebop jam—does DeFrancesco's legacy, and that of his forefathers from Philly, proud.

NOMO
New Tones
Ubiquity
2006

A band unlike most others, Detroit's NOMO consists of eight multi-instrumentalists led by Elliott Bergman, who plays tenor sax, bass clarinet, synthesizer, Rhodes keyboard, electric kalimba and more.

New Tones is a CD unlike most others, too. Captured in the studio by Warren Defever, the renowned yet enigmatic producer for Detroit's electronic/pastiche collective His Name is Alive, New Tones simultaneously explores electronic music, African polyrhythms, and American jazz and free jazz. "We blend minimalist keyboard loops, fuzzed-out bass, soulful group vocals, and rolling blasts from an electric mbira, enthuses Bergman. "Throw in a horn-led midnight funeral procession, and hopefully you have a deep listen that's also a soul shaking dance party for the people!

So many stylistic cross-currents make this thick music. "Fourth Ward is dished out as a sonic parfait in three layers: a rhythmic bed from an African nightmare, groaned in electric bass and a mad chattering monkey chorus of percussion; beneath an airy fusion-jazz melody danced in unison by synthesizers and horns, Weather Report-style; crowned by a cragged free-jazz saxophone solo which bores in like a mad wasp and almost seems mistakenly cut in from an unrelated tune.

"Reasons grows hot from its supporting electronics, like an engine warming up, and is one of the numerous amazing horn charts on New Tones, culminating in solitary saxophone bleating against drum, bass and percussion until Erik Hall's wah-wah guitar stirs the collective pot into a cauldron in which modern jazz, postmodern jazz, world music, electronic music, and acoustic and electronic funk all play equal, seething parts.

"Divisions rides circular ripples of interwoven guitar, percussion and electronics into a spacey jazz jam, ebbing and flowing as Bergman slides around his bass clarinet solo like a lazy cat sauntering in for afternoon breakfast, culminating in tidal splashes of syncopated horn and brass.

It really is that complicated, but even with all its complexity New Tones at its best is no less funky and primal. "We Do We Go builds straight up from the ground floor of Hall's soulful guitar hook, Jamie Rider's bass funk and collective low rider horns, cutting through the air thick and stinky like too much bad cologne—yet with jazz perspective, too.



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