Time was when people retired to Florida to bask in the sunshine, play some golf and tend their backyard gardens. That was then; this is now. Pianist and organist Chris Nordman, who has roamed the world for more than half a century as a working musician and now calls Florida home, has no plans to rest on his laurelsor anything else. Instead, he has found kindred souls in bassist Ward Dumigan and drummer Joe Adcock and called on their talents to help record a new album, High Wire, to dispense the sort of funky, soulful jazz that is dearest to their hearts.
Nordman has performed with, listened to and been influenced by a wide array of celebrated artists, some of whose music he has chosen to rephrase here: Stevie Wonder, Erroll Garner, Joe Zawinul, Eddie Harris, Wilton Felder, Herbie Hancock. Sandwiched among their themes are popular standards by Harold Arlen ("Over the Rainbow") and George Gershwin ("Summertime") and jazz evergreens by Horace Silver ("The Preacher"), Kenny Dorham ("Blue Bossa") and Mercer Ellington ("Things Ain't What They Used to Be"). Nordman's trio does its best to bring out the soul and funk in each of them (yes, even "Over the Rainbow" and "Summertime," which is played as a samba or bossa; never could tell the difference).
Garner wrote the album's assertive title song, which follows the sunny opener, Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," and precedes Zawinul's irrepressible "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." Harris wrote "Cold Duck Time," Bobby Hebb the fairly well-known "Sunny." "The Preacher" needs no introduction for jazz aficionados, nor does "Blue Bossa." The album's standards, for some reason, are placed back-to-back, leading to "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," Felder's "Way Back Home" (on which Nordman is given credit as co-author) and Hancock's "Watermelon Man." Nordman divides his time between piano and organ much of the way, introducing the electric piano on "Way Back Home" and continuing with it on "Watermelon Man." While he has been around long enough to make his journeys across the keyboards seem intuitive and effortless, Nordman traverses no new ground; he simply does what he does, and does it well. Dumigan is a well-honed soloist too, and Adcock has his impressive moments, especially on "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," "The Preacher," "Blue Bossa" and "Watermelon Man."
Are Nordman and his trio good? Absolutely. Is the music good? That probably depends on who you ask. It is certainly plain-spoken and earnest. Some may embrace it, while others may choose to keep it at arm's length. The playlist should serve as a rather clear guide to what the trio has in mind. What matters is that Nordman and his mates are not sitting on their hands but remain busy and true to the music they love most.
Isn’t She Lovely; High Wire; Mercy, Mercy, Mercy; Cold Duck Time; Sunny; The Preacher;
Blue Bossa; Over the Rainbow; Summertime; Things Ain’t What They Used to Be; Our
Way Back Home; Watermelon Man.
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