Spiffy is the third album as leader this year (2015) for pianist Michael Kocour who has chosen the occasion to set aside the piano in favor of a Hammond B3 organ. It proves to be an auspicious choice, as does his decision to work as part of a quartet. Kocour's sidemen (saxophonist Eric Schneider, guitarist Bruce Forman, drummer Dom Moio) are splendid, as is the leader's stout and nimble Hammond. The four had played together as a unit only once before, at the late lamented Paradise Valley (AZ) Jazz Party, but had known each other for years, and their compatibility is conspicuous from start to finish.
Kocour, who wrote four of the album's nine selections, is generous in apportioning solo space, lending everyone ample opportunity to shine, and no one disappoints. Schneider, a decorous improviser whose big, warm sound and virile approach are anchored in the Texas Tenor tradition, plays tenor on half a dozen numbers, alto on three ("Tenderly," Kocour's happy-go-lucky "Huffininpuffin," Forman's Caribbean-tinged "Collapso"). Forman relies mostly on his right hand for rapid single- note runs that are always engaging, while Moio keeps metronomic time at any and all tempos.
Kocour, meanwhile, sets the compass from his seat at the Hammond, pressing the ensemble forward, providing an equable substructure and soloing with awareness and enthusiasm. Besides the album's title song and "Huffininpuffin," Kocour wrote the fast-paced opener, "Dropped Third Strike," and funk-oriented "Chunky." Forman composed "Collapso" and "Monk's Hayride," Schneider the swaggering "Da Good Stuff." The tenor is spotlighted most of the way on the album's other track, Neal Hefti / Bobby Troup's well-known "Girl Talk." While the organ trio has long been a staple in the jazz ledger, Kocour and his crew show that an organ quartet, when harmoniously aligned, is a pretty good idea too.
Dropped Third Strike; Chunky; Da Good Stuff; Tenderly; Huffininpuffin; Collapso; Girl Talk; Spiffy; Monk’s Hayride.
Michael Kocour, Hammond B3 organ; Eric Schneider, alto and tenor saxophone; Bruce Forman, guitar; Dom Moio, drums.