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The Essence All-Stars: Bongo Bop

Douglas Payne By

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A good organ summit that could have been great, Bongo Bop more or less unites B-3 legends Lonnie Smith and Reuben Wilson with wunderkind Joey DeFrancesco and a Hammond player unknown to me by the name of Doug Carn (one wonders who forgot to call John Patton). The disc is something of a follow-up to last year’s Organic Grooves on Hip Bop. Rather than focus on groove tunes, though, the guys try their hand at bop and blues here.

Mostly, it’s a success. Each of the organ grinders is capable of sustaining interest. But the real magic comes from the other players – especially drummer Idris Muhammad. Since there’s no bassist (and the footpedaling is mixed way down), this is master funk drummer Muhammad’s show. He’s brilliant at kicking these guys into a groove – and provoking them to say something good. Violinist Michael Urbaniak has a surprising simpatico with the organs on "Uptown Blues." Bone man Josh Roseman and alto player Jorge Sylvester rock on Max Roach’s "Raoul" and Roseman really carries Horace Silver’s "Enchantment." Papo Pepin is heard here and there on the bongos of the title and clarinetist Bob Franceschini is on board too.

Perhaps this session suggested more than it actually achieved. It’d sure be nice to hear one or two of the B-3 players on this date take on each one of these tunes. Even so, it’s a nice, easy listen for organ lovers who like a little bop and blues in their fatback. The program: Lonnie Smith is at the helm of "The Lady Sings The Blues" and with Reuben Wilson on "Enchantment;" Joey DeFrancesco on "Bongo Bop," with Reuben Wilson on "Uptown Blues" and with Doug Carn on "Super Jet;" and Doug Carn covers "Raoul," "125th Street Congress" and "Super Jet."

Title: Bongo Bop | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Hip-Bop

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