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John Novello, Billy Sheehan, Dennis Chambers: Niacin

Glenn Astarita By

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In the dictionary the word "Niacin" refers to an ingredient inherent within Vitamin B Complex. This new recording on Chick Corea's "Stretch" label pays homage to the wonderful sound, intricacies and possibilities of that wonderful instrument: The Hammond B-3.

John Novello takes the lead here on the B3 and assorted keyboards. Rock super bassist Billy Sheehan and drum hero Dennis Chambers round out this extremely energetic and well focused date. In the liner notes, Mr. Novello writes a brief history of the B-3 and pays homage to some of his influences of years past. Mr. Novello also recognizes the recent "Hammond B-3 retro movement" in modern music (Witness, for one, Medeski Martin & Wood).

While MM&W have enamored live audiences and critics alike, it may suffice to say that now is an opportune time to jump on the B-3 bandwagon, whether aspiring to artistic success or to commercial appeal. "Niacin" has done both. The first track "No Man's Land", gives the listener a hint of what is about to transpire: Novello plays with absolute conviction and soul. He plays with intensity and vigor.

Clearly the leader of this date, Novello the bandleader and arranger lso does a wonderful job. This is not purely a chops fest. Novello as in the great jazz tradition) uses quotes and employs all the seemingly limitless functionality's of his axe. He swings, comps and burns the organ. His keen sense of the instrument dictates his path, while Sheehan and Chambers provide the impeccable support. The feeling of togetherness is obvious. Chambers and Sheehan tear down the house yet most effectively supply the rhythmic structure sympathetic to Novello's keen sense of direction. Novello lays back on a few tunes only to wind into more ferocious activity. His use of midi equipment and piano are mere backdrops to the pulsing gyrations of his B-3. Novello's flawless technique and knowledge of the instrument is quite evident. There are 15 total tracks on the CD yet no filler. The recording itself is crisp and near perfect. The musicians swing, lay down groove after groove and change tempos on a microsecond's notice. One of the best so far of 1997.


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