Keyboardist Ron Pedley and guitarist Jon Pondel are back with their sophomore release under their latest collaborative name, Kombo, called Cookin’ Out
. If you’re unfamiliar with these names, Pedley and Pondel used to be in a band with drummer Bud Harner (who, by the way, produced this CD) and bassist Marc Levine called Uncle Festive. They were also the core of Barry Manilow’s touring band for several years, although this trivia really gives no indication of their own style. Uncle Festive offered a cock-eyed, quirky flavor of contemporary jazz in the eighties (I quite liked it), and while Kombo can still claim some individuality, this format should prove to be a bit more accessible to a wider audience. Pedley’s primary voice is the Hammond C3 Organ (yes, that’s C3, not B3), but there’s some electric piano, too. The beat as well as the compositions are simple, yet toe-tappingly infectious. Former Average White Band drummer Steve Ferrone and the ubiquitous percussionist Luis Conte keep the peppy groove happening throughout the disc. The guest horns add interest as well. As the title and the cover art suggest, this would make good backyard party music.
Many of the compositions are by Pedley and Pondel, but some well-chosen covers serve to illustrate this band’s unique style by how they spin this familiar material. There’s War’s “Low Rider,” Laura Nyro’s “Stoned Soul Picnic” with guest vocalist Sharon Hendrix, and a medley of Bill Wither’s “Use Me” and the sixties top-40 hit “Green-Eyed Lady” (by the one-hit wonders Sugarloaf, for you trivia buffs). Kombo has come up with a winning formula; it strikes the right balance between easy-to-digest, upbeat, groovy tunes, but with just enough quirky humor and well-executed solos to be individualistic and musically interesting. (GRP 314 549 418)