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The Greg Hatza ORGANization: Snake Eyes

Douglas Payne By

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Here's a nice soul-jazz date from Baltimore-based organist Greg Hatza that will happily take many back to the smoke filled clubs when organ combos ruled the scene. Some may remember the two nifty trio dates Hatza recorded for Coral in 1967 with guitarist Eric Gale and Grady Tate. If DJs ever happen upon these, they're sure to become acid-jazz classics. Hatza seems to have vanished from the scene as electronic keyboards and fusion took over jazz and resurfaced only recently, after hearing Joey Defrancesco and being encouraged to return to organ at Defrancesco's urging.

Naturally, Hatza is well steeped in the blue bop of Jimmy Smith. But, like Defrancesco, he seems to gravitate more toward the rapid-fire soulfulness of Charles Earland and the modal funk of Lonnie Smith (though he avoids the otherworlds of Larry Young that Defrancesco sometimes explores). The result on this set, the third of his Palmetto releases, is a pleasing program of solid riffing on catchy jazz rooted in soul, gospel, funk and blues.

The Hatza ORGANization is a solid quartet, featuring returning guitarist Paul Bollenbeck (still poised to fulfill his promise, but good even in his Scofield bag), tenor man Ralph Lalama and drummer Dennis Chambers. The best moments are upbeat: the gospel funk of "Stand Up and Be Counted," the soul strut of "Change the World" and the mode supreme of "Trane Station." The remaining half dozen tunes have an attractive appeal that will sound familiar to those who enjoyed Hatza's previous In The Pocket (thank God, no standards). Snake Eyes won't change the world. But it's good (if not essential) contemporary organ combo swing that isn't as gimmicky or as stiff as most of the stuff coming out today.

Tracks:Stand Up and Be Counted; Snake Eyes; Change the World; One Track Mind; First Your Money Then Your Clothes; Spanish Rice; Every Step I Take; Trane Station; Change the World.

Personnel: Paul Bollenbeck: guitar; Ralph Lalama: tenor sax; Dennis Chambers: drums; Greg Hatza: Hammond B-3 organ.

Title: Snake Eyes | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


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