Swinging Sunset, New Jersey-based tenor saxophonist Anthony E. Nelson Jr.'s fifth album on his Musicstand label, is an unpretentious, undemanding and utterly enjoyable celebration of the organ trios of the 1950s and 1960s. From the first bars of the opener, Eddie Heywood's "Canadian Sunset," it feels like we are in for a good time and, over the next hour and a bit, that expectation is a hundred percent delivered.
Nelson is accompanied by Hammond B3 organist Kyle Koehler and veteran drummer Cecil Brooks III, two perfectly in-synch colleagues. Most of the twelve tracks, we are told, were completed in just one take and, in the best sense, it sounds like it.
Two soundbites from the notes which Nelson wrote for his publicity sheet are worth quoting, representing as they do his road map. Talking about those first generation organ trios led by tenor players such as Gene Ammons, Houston Person and Stanley Turrentine, Nelson observes that groove was never sacrificed for "mere complexity." Amen to that. Writing about his love for Johnny Griffin, he says "I love Johnny because he plays pretty no matter how much fire he brings to a song."
In his notes, Nelson also acknowledges the roots of organ trios in the Black church in the 1930s, from where it spun off into neighbourhood bars and taverns two decades later. It is a lineage of which Nelson is well aware: an active churchgoer, he is the artistic director of the Shiloh Baptist Church "Jazz In The Sanctuary" Series, a jazz vespers presented in concert form. Participants have included Steve Turre, Mark Gross and Cecil Brooks III.
The tracks on Swinging Sunset include three Nelson originals and his arrangement of the gospel standard "Walk With Me." The remaining tracks are staples of the organ trio tradition: the aforementioned "Canadian Sunset," Neal Hefti's "Girl Talk," Jack Strachey's "These Foolish Things," Stanley Turrentine's "Minor Chant," Johnny Griffin's "Mildew," Michael Leonard's "Why Did I Choose You," Tadd Dameron's "On A Misty Night" and Bert Kalmar's "Three Little Words."
Writing about recording "Canadian Sunset," which he first heard on Gene Ammons' Boss Tenor (Prestige, 1960), Nelson says, "We were in the moment. It was like being in church and everyone is singing and clapping, and the preacher wants to move on with the service, but no one is paying attention to him because they're so wrapped up in the feeling of the music." For at least one non-churchgoer, the feeling is infectious.
Canadian Sunset; One More Once; Girl Talk; Una Mas Por Roberto; These Foolish Things; Minor Chant; Mildew; Why Did I Choose You; On A Misty Night; Three Little Words; Walk With Me; Last Call.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.