At home in many musical milieus, Sheryl Bailey's guitar speaks both viscerally and cerebrally. Of late, she has been most comfortable in her Hammond B3 trio with organist Gary Versace and drummer Ian Froman. Live versions of songs from their two initial studio releases make up only roughly a third of Live @ The Fat Cat
, which captures the band over two nights at the Greenwich Village club. This latest chronicle reveals that the group has matured to a point where Bailey's incredible guitar technique is skillfully interwoven into the trio's overall sound.
Although the band begins to cook early, with Bailey shooting sparks from her guitar about two minutes into the opening "Cedar's Mood, a tribute to the great hard bop pianist Cedar Walton, there is a lovely patina to each of these cuts. Versace's ebb and flow, combined with Froman's textural playing, gives the music a profound richness, and the tributes to Coltrane's spirit, "Starbrite and "Elvin People, are even more devotional live.
Bailey's singularity as a guitarist lies with her lethal combination of blistering leads and captivating chords, and happily both are in evidence here. The new material is very strong: the beautifully unhurried tension building "A Soft Green Light, the chordal explorations of "Dance of the Dream Maker and "Tune Down, and the ethereal tribute to klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, "The Wishing Well. "Midnite Swim is a late-night bath in juicy B3 sound, and everyone's favorite bop-rocker, "Swamp Thang, arises again from the mire for a wall-shaking and window-rattling conclusion. If you have never heard this group, Live @ The Fat Cat is a great intro to the best working B3 trio around.