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Nick Moran Trio: No Time Like Now

Dave Wayne By

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Organ trios can be annoyingly conservative. Perhaps the temptation to revisit the heyday of the style—the early 1960s—and recapture the magic that made all of those Blue Note and Prestige LPs so much fun is just too great. Maybe it's because the Hammond B-3 sound evokes so much nostalgia. Don't count Nick Moran among the sentimentalists. The title of his second CD, No Time Like Now, is illustrative of both his fresh approach to the organ trio, and to his overall musical outlook.

The set opens with a deeply satisfying rendition of the old Cream tune, "Strange Brew." On this, the only cover tune on No Time Like Now, Moran, Hammond B-3 whiz Brad Whiteley, and drummer Chris Benham play it light and slinky, eschewing the earthier funk-based approach of, say, Robert Walter or Medeski, Martin & Wood. Which isn't to say that these guys aren't funky. They are. It's just that their approach is more akin to that of a jazz piano trio—something that Whiteley's remarkable adeptness with the bass pedals make possible. "Slow Drive" is another funky piece that does, in fact, weigh in a bit heavier on the "get down" quotient thanks to Moran's blues-drenched soloing and Benham's crisp, snappy kit work.

The trio's personality becomes clearer still on the next two tracks. Both "My Beautiful" and "Intention" have that sort of rhythmic feel that's not quite Latin, but isn't exactly straight-ahead jazz either. Here, Moran's crisp guitar and the way that Whiteley's brainy organ avoids all of the usual clichés are reminiscent of guitarist John Abercrombie's 1990s recordings with Atlanta-based organist Dan Wall. Even more impressive is "Wishful Thinking" a cunningly convoluted modal soul-jazz piece that—except for Moran's John Scofield-like guitar solo—wouldn't sound out of place on a Larry Young record circa 1965. "The Physicist Transformed" occupies a similar harmonic and rhythmic space, but comes off as more of a blowing tune. The CD's only ballad, "Natalya," is one of the more striking pieces on No Time Like Now. The sadness and regret can almost be felt spilling out of Moran's guitar as he solos over Whiteley's brooding Hammond swells and Benham's malleted toms.

No Time Like Now is a fresh look at the organ trio, and one needn't be a particular fan of jazz organ to apply.

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