Organ jazz records flow into and out of our consciousness evoking memories of the roots of jazz, R&B and easy listening, but also awakening us to the possibilities of new musical exploration.
Whatever inspired Wild Bill Davis, Milt Buckner and Jimmy Smith to take up the organ may never be known. Maybe it was the electricity of the powered keyboards, and the horsepower opportunities to rev up a night club audience, that inspired (and still inspires) artists to plug in. While the organists on the three discs reviewed here are not the leaders, their influence is ever present and makes an indelible mark.
Anthony Wilson Trio
Jack Of Hearts
Groove Note Records
Probably best known to jazz audiences as sideman extraordinaire for singer/pianist Diana Krall (sorry Elvis), guitarist Anthony Wilson is an excellent leader in his own right. His passion for the traditional organ trio has been displayed on the prior Groove Note Records sessions Our Gang (2001), and Savivity (2005). His latest finds him with a new lineup of Hammond B3 hero Larry Goldings and the rotating drummers Jeff Hamilton and Jim Keltner.
With a selection of original music and tunes by Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Jerry Goldsmith and Van Dyke Parks, Wilson maintains a hip association with the traditions of organ trios, mining the genre for Latin influences and slow burners. He can really stretch out a mood, as on "Homecoming," an original tune that oozes sentiment as does Ellington's "Carnegie Blues," teasing listeners with that sexy, gentle swing Wilson gets from his hollow body guitar. All of this is captured old school direct to 2-track analogue in the legendary Oceanway Studios in Hollywood.
Highlights here are two Wilson and Goldings compositions, "Mezcal" and "Harajuku." The former is a rump-shaker of a Latin dance tune that could easily be the theme song for many a summer party this year, and the latter a complex odd-metered bit of modern funk that is sweaty, viscous and plied with just enough rock and roll that an extended jam is certainly called for.
Out With It
David Ashkenazy, the Southern California drummer now living in New York, creates a memorable session by way of the compositions selected and his combination of players. By placing the talents of the habitually underrated saxophonist Joel Frahm and guitarist Gilad Hekselman, who garnered acclaim on drummer Ari Hoenig's disc Bert's Playground (Dreyfus, 2008), he focuses on solid playing and interesting tunes.
The presence of Gary Versace on organ bridges the old with the new. Lennon/McCartney's "I Want You" is updated, creating a jazz track to be remembered as a burning blues. The drummer chose Frank Foster's "Simone" and Jimmy McHugh's "Too Young To Go Steady" as traditional pieces to stretch out with solos by himself and band-mates. Each track displays an infectious sense of swing and drive. Besides Wayne Shorter's "Children Of The Night" and Bill Frisell's "Strange Meeting," he pens two tracks here, "Dadi-Yo" and "Zoology," both crafty and artful tunes that flow in rapport with the others.
A Little Somethin'
Easily mistaken for a Blue Note session of the 1960s (and that's just fine), the latest by trombonist David Gibson delivers a solid buoyant session of burners. Except for the classic "April In Paris," all the music was written by the trombonist or a a band member. The presence of organist Jared Gold ramps up the energy considerably. His sound competes with each other instrument for space, forcing that macho bebop favored by trombonist Curtis Fuller, drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter Lee Morgan.
Gibson is not adverse to the muscular attack. He and alto saxophonist Julius Tolentino manage a front line that sounds as if there were double the two horns heard. Perhaps it is their choice of this more audacious bebop that fuels the recording. They certainly go for popular attention with the funky "Hot Sauce," which comes straight out of saxophonist Tom Scott's bag of the late 1970s and jam-sound of "In The Loop." But mostly this record is about solid swing and small group dynamics, all captured with a burning intensity.
Tracks and Personnel
Jack Of Hearts
Tracks: Mezcal; Jack Of Hearts; Hawkeyes; Carnegie Blues; Theme From "Chinatown"; Vida Perdida Acabou; Orange Crate Art; Harajuka; Zweet Zursday; Homecoming.
Personnel: Anthony Wilson: guitar; Larry Goldings: organ; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Jim Keltner: drums.
Out With It
Tracks: Children Of The Night; Dadi-Yo; Simone; I Want You; Bokserboym; Zoology; Strange Meeting; Too Young To Go Steady.
Personnel: David Ashkenazy: drums; Joel Frahm: saxophone; Gilad Hekselman: guitar; Gary Versace: organ.
A Little Somethin'
Tracks: The Cobbler; Hot Sauce; April In PAris; French Press; The Seraph's Smile; In The Loop; One For Jackie; This End Up!; A Little Somethin.'
Personnel: David Gibson: trombone; Julius Tolentino: alto saxophone; Jared Gold: organ; Quincy Davis: drums.