Liner notes notwithstanding, the alliance of a big band and organ is hardly uniqueJimmy 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 nameproceeds 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.
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.