Reuben Wilson: Revisited
American Showplace Music
For any organist mining the soul-jazz vein, it's tough to escape the long shadow of Hammond B-3 titans such as Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Richard "Groove" Holmes and Jimmy McGriff. On the other hand, invoking the memory of a few of the masters doesn't hurt an artist in reaching fans who crave sounds that stop short of Larry Young's mid 1960s, saxophonist John Coltrane-influenced innovations and fusion oriented work.
In many respects, Revisited bears the weight of this storied past and violates none of the rules. Wilson recorded a number of releases on Blue Note in the late 1960s through early 1970s, yet has never received the recognition he deserves. The recording includes covers of "Misty," Holmes's monster hit single from 1965, as well as Smith's venerated "Back at the Chicken Shack," released back in 1963. Wilson's Revisited trio brings the right credentials to the project. Guitarist Bob DeVos has worked with just about every major soul-jazz organist. Several years ago he launched an organ trio that carefully extended the genre's range without marring its roots. Drummer Vince Ector toured extensively with Earland, led organ-inclusive groups and, more recently, was an important part of organist Akiko Tsuruga's band.
It's not a surprise that Wilson's trio pays homage to the past; it's that it succeeds in doing it on its own terms. This is one of those rare instances in which some very good musicians make an all-too-familiar style sound fresh and engaging. Scrubbed clean of every trace of soul-jazz excesslike a screaming chord held for many bars, or one simple phrase repeated for near an entire chorusthe record is a very appealing mixture of economy, precision and high spirits. Instead of opting for some of the well worn, crowd pleasing tricks of the trade, Wilson's trio generates considerable momentum by exercising a degree of restraint and exhibiting a razor-sharp rapport.
The disc's eight tracks vary in mood and emphasisfrom the funky "See See Rider," to a straightforward ballad rendition of "Autumn In Vermont," to a burning, up tempo "Wee." The opener, "Here We Go," exemplifies the trio's strengths. The twelve bar head is played twice at a brisk tempo. While Wilson states the symmetrical, riff-like melody, DeVos' chords chop at and slide around the organist, adding a tasteful layer of rhythmic tension. For the first twelve bars, Ector makes a point of lying back, discreetly adding accents in key places only. The second time around he's noticeably more assertive, inserting brief fills and single strokes that stand on their own and engage Wilson.
DeVos's five chorus solo is remarkable for the tight rein he keeps on his visceral side, while building momentum in a subtle, almost imperceptible manner. He never wastes a note, and there's real muscle beneath a deceptively smooth surface. Taking his sweet time, DeVos eventually reaches his desired destinationa climax that doesn't feel labored or excessive. Often working from familiar blues and R & B phraseology, Wilson takes several sturdy choruses. DeVos' effusive chording makes the music jump without detracting from Wilson or affecting the trio's deep pocket. The track's end feels a bit ragged, as if it's undecided as how to finish things off. Not to worry. Like their illustrious predecessors Wilson, DeVos and Ector aren't interested in perfection, but rather in washing away the dust of everyday life, and maybe even making us feel good. And on those terms, they succeed.
Tracks: Here We Go; The Shuffle; See See Rider; Moonlight in Vermont; A Good Idea; Misty; Wee; Back at the Chicken Shack.
Personnel: Reuben Wilson: organ; Bob DeVos: guitar; Vince Ector: drums.