Akiko Tsuruga: Sweet and Funky (2007)
Jazz organ has been passing through a long period of experimentation, where well-behaved organists with superior chops have been releasing lean and muscular jazz, all well-conceived and executed. This creative direction in organ-based jazz is a positive development, expanding the application of the B3 in the vocabulary of the music. The music can be succinctly defined as "low fat (read "no grease ).
Like a bull stock market, organ jazz sometimes requires a correction, a recalibration based on its roots and traditions. Joining Tony Monaco on the contemporary organ funk scene is Akiko Tsuruga, and what she's serving ain't sushi: its collard greens with a ten-pound piece of salt pork.
Tsuruga turns the pots on, gas on high on her original opener, "Meanie Queenie, a blues (what else could it be?). The organist immediately establishes her style as flamboyant and fearless where she is not afraid to pull out all the stops (to use a perfect metaphor). In contrast, guitarist Eric Johnson is the picture of elegant containment, playing an introverted Jack to Tsuruga's extroverted Queen.
More blues-based playing follows with "DLG, another original that immediately recalls Richard "Groove Holmes' big-band sound, full of swing and sex. The standards "Sweet and Lovely and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams possess an incredibly nostalgic temperament not unlike that of Lawrence Welk in heaven, all grace and poise. "Stormy Weather is fully formed, demonstrating why the guitar-organ trio has been such a popular jazz format. Tsuruga and Johnson build a mansion with the guitarist presenting the melody head before a series of inspired solos.
This fine disc closes with a dyed-in-the-wool classic soul-jazz presentation of "Broadway. Again, Johnson is allowed the lead and first solos followed by Tsuruga, who turns the piece down to a simmer before blowing the doors off in the coda. Listener, consider yourself warned, Sweet and Funky is more of the latter.
Track Listing: Meanie Queenie; DLG; Sweet and Lovely; Stormy Weather; Saving All My Love For You; Where is the Love; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Mushi- Mushi; Booga Lou; Broadway.
Personnel: Akiko Tsuruga: Hammond B3 organ; Eric Johnson: guitar; Vince Ector: drums; Wilson Cornel: percussion.
Record Label: 18th & Vine