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The Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band: Message from Groove and GW

Jack Bowers By

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The Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band: Message from Groove and GW
Liner notes notwithstanding, the alliance of a big band and organ is hardly unique—Jimmy Smith, Richard "Groove" Holmes and Joey DeFrancesco are organ maestros who have been there and done that; even the great Oscar Peterson once dipped his toes into that water. Having said that, organist Radam Schwartz and his power-laden New Jersey-based ensemble do the concept proud on Message from Groove and GW, burning on all cylinders and swinging as hard and as often as any band has license to do. Spoiler alert: if your taste runs to ballads and music that is more placid than potent, you may want to give this one a pass in favor of, say, the Modern Jazz Quartet.

If, on the other hand, swing and blues are in your wheelhouse, you've come to the right place. Schwartz and his like-minded crew have that genre under control, wailing with abandon while steadfastly anchored by Schwartz and drummer David F. Gibson who is so central to the enterprise that his name alone appears below that of Schwartz on the album jacket's front cover. Perhaps the nearest ingredient to a "ballad" on the menu is the Isley brothers' mellow "Between the Sheets," and even there the rhythmic undercurrent is strong. Charles Mingus' "Work Song"—not to be confused with the Nat Adderley classic of that name—proceeds at a similar tempo, again with virile support from Schwartz and Gibson to punctuate persuasive solos by trumpeter Benjamin Hankle, trombonist Andrae Murchison, alto Anthony Ware and Schwartz himself. And what better way to close an album of organ-based big-band swing and blues than with a theme by Johann Sebastian Bach, whose "Von Gott" has been given a handsome up-to-date face-lift by Schwartz.

A group chorus ushers in the well-knit opener, "Trouble Just Won't Go Away," the first of three tantalizing originals by Schwartz (the others are "Dig You Like Crazy" and "Message from Groove and GW," a deeply-channeled salute to Groove Holmes and Gerald Wilson). Completing the program are John Coltrane's bop-oriented "Blues Minor," the Aretha Franklin hit "Ain't No Way," trombonist Peter Lind's tasteful "Path to Understanding" and last but not least, tenor saxophonist Abel Mireles' emphatic "What to Do." Mireles, who solos there and on "Blues Minor," is Schwartz' right-hand man, and a press release accompanying the album even refers to the ensemble as the Jazz Exchange Big Band, co-led by Schwartz and Mireles. Be that as it may, this band by any other name would surely swing as hard, which is all that matters.

Besides those already mentioned, there are impressive solos along the way by Lind, trumpeters Lee Hogans and Ben Chubb, tenor Gene Ghee, baritone Ben Kovacs and guitarist Charlie Sigler, enhanced by the band's able-bodied blowing as a unit. If it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, the Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band needs no rhetoric to underline its purpose.

Track Listing

Trouble Just Won’t Go Away; Blues Minor; Ain’t No Way; Dig You Like Crazy; What to Do; Between the Sheets; Message from Groove and GW; A Path to Understanding; Work Song; Von Gott.

Personnel

Radam Schwartz: organ, Hammond B3; Ted Chubb: trumpet; Benjamin Hankle: trumpet; James Cage: trumpet; Lee Hogans: trumpet; Anthony Ware: saxophone; Danny Raycraft: saxophone, alto; Abel Mireles: saxophone; Gene Ghee: saxophone, tenor; Ben Kovacs: saxophone, baritone; Peter Lind: trombone; Andrae Murchison: trombone; Charlie Sigler: guitar; David F. Gibson: drums.

Album information

Title: Message from Groove and GW | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Arabesque Jazz

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