There's a joyful spirit to the playing of Texas tenor Doug Lawrence (b. 1956). His energy and bright ideas are contagious. And if High Heel Sneakers, his second Fable Records release following last year's successful Soul Carnival , is any indication, his music is too. Lawrence, on the scene for two decades and only now getting heard outside of Loren Schoenberg's big band and the New York City scene, is a craftsman of the first order. He has a solid, passionate personality on his horn and he charts courses, like a good storyteller, worth following.
Here, Lawrence gets down in an organ combo that features young go-getter Adam Scone on the Hammond B-3, everyone's favorite guitarist, Peter Bernstein (perfect here in his familiar Grant Green-meets-Billy Butler style), John Webber or Dennis Irwin on bass, Willie Jones II on drums, conga legend Potato Valdes and congaman Eddie Bobe. For a studio group, the chemistry is noteworthy. These guys have a warm, smoky, broken-in sound, like they've been playing a cozy club for years together.
The group tackles a hefty helping of standards (notably "Get Out Of Town, "High Heel Sneakers," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "The Lamp Is Low") and a few excellent, greasy group originals ("Doug's Dilemma," "Savoy Blues" and "El Shakey"). The sounds are familiar to anyone who's ever heard a Blue Note organ record, the kind of thing you'd expect of Lou Donaldson or Ike Quebec with Grant Green and Freddie Roach or John Patton on board.
What's most notable is the refreshing sincerity lacking in so many of today's organ-combo reduxes. Lawrence means what he says - and what he says sounds real. He's neither mining the past nor ironically cashing in on a fad. He's aided significantly by Bernstein's sprite guitar and Scone's enticing organomics (watch out for this guy - he's already recorded his debut for Fable Records and he's likely to rival Joey DeFrancesco's hold on the B-3 revival....wait and see).
High Heel Sneakers is great fun from start to finish and an ideal showcase to discover the finally emerging talents of Doug Lawrence.
Songs:The Lamp Is Low; Get Out Of Town; High Heel Sneakers; Crazy She Calls Me; The Masquerade Is Over; The Moon Was Yellow; Doug's Dilemma; Savoy Blues; Detour Ahead; El Shakey; The Way You Look Tonight.
Players:Doug Lawrence: tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Adam Scone: Hammond B-3; Dennis Irwin, John Webber: bass; Willie Jones III: drums; Carlos "Potato" Valdes, Eddie Bobe: conga.