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Joey DeFrancesco at Birdland

Nick Catalano By

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On the final night of January and the onset of Super Bowl weekend, Joey DeFrancesco brought his touring trio into Birdland celebrating his latest CD release for HighNote One For Rudy. With bandmates guitarist Paul Bollenback and drummer Carmen Intorre DeFrancesco lit up the room with his B3 and deftly moved to the trumpet and then to the piano—performance features he has included in his last several years.

The album celebrates the organist's association with famed record producer Rudy Van Gelder who, DeFrancesco revealed in a brief backstage interview, was the engineer for his second Columbia album Where Were You? back in 1990. That album came on the heels of an album with Miles Davis who abducted the 17 year-old phenom out of his Philadelphia environs to record Amandia—in one of the most auspicious starts for any jazz musician in recent memory.

De Francesco commenced his Birdland outing with his usual B3 pyrotechnics weaving his way masterfully through Tatum-like sequences which have become trademarks of his prodigious talent. Imaginative exchanges with Bollenback and traditional 4 and 8 bar trades with Intorre (with occasional choruses from the intriguing percussionist) became the meat and potatoes of the set. A highlight was a playful rendition of Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring—a tune which neatly lent itself to DeFrancesco's adroit spacings and phrases. In addition, a performance of Canadian Sunset featured stirring lines from Bollenback and langorous explorations from DeFrancesco.

At 43, the wizard of the B3 continues to win critic's polls and dominate the scene. His plaudits are well-deserved as he steadfastly pursues new musical territory with sure-minded focus and a thorough knowledge and appreciation of important milestones in jazz history.


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