Certain live recordings seem to maintain the feel of the performance and venue and lose nothing in the documentation of the event. This trio date recorded at a small Philadelphia club, with guitarist Skip Heller joined by drummer John F. Kennedy and organist Lucas Brown, is one of those special live recordings. You can almost smell the smoke and beer; you can definitely feel the warm, sympathetic, and swinging musicianship.
Heller's music makes him sound like an everyday guy who would be a great friend, someone who would be great fun to be with. He's more than a bit of a wise-ass; in fact, he can be funny as hell (as in his introduction to "Wives and Lovers, where he positively rips Hal David's lyrics for Burt Bacharach's tune before concluding: "Bobby Goldsboro also recorded it, so 'Watching Scotty Grow' is not the biggest piece of shit in that man's career. ) He's got great taste in pop music both obvious (Mathis, Hefti, Sinatra, Bacharach) and obscure ("Mambo Inn ). He plays the guitar tight and hot, with flair and humor. What's not to like, you know?
Brown and Heller take full advantage of the rhythmic and harmonic space available in the absence of a bassist. On the opening "Canadian Sunset, Brown lays down an organ solo as gooey and viscous as maple syrup on pancakes, and he does it again on the leisurely "Li'l Darlin', rocking her gently like a hammock swaying in a lazy Sunday afternoon breeze.
Heller nimbly drops in numerous quotes from other tunes (listen for the hook to "Surrey with the Fringe on Top, for example, which introduces his stroll through "Canadian Sunset, or "Embraceable You in "All the Way ), and stretches "Wives and Lovers and "It's Not for Me to Say well past their original melodies. His twisted up and tossed off Mathis cover is just so freaking cool, his inventive twists on melody and rhythm tasty and smart. "All the Way remains a bit more true to the familiar Sinatra version, but it sounds no less inventive or engaging.
The great Philadelphia jazz guitarist Pat Martino recorded several jazz-groove albums early in his career with contemporary keyboard players such as Jack McDuff, Trudy Pitts, and Richard "Groove Holmes. The dexterous, warm, and good-natured playing from Heller and Brown on Out of Time honors and advances that guitar/organ jazz-groove Philadelphia legacy.