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From the beginning, it's been clear that Joey DeFrancesco is an obvious heir to the throne when it comes to extending the influence of innovator Jimmy Smith. Influenced by his father (quite a talented organ grinder in his own right) at a very young age, the younger DeFrancesco has developed an incendiary style that owes much to the influence of Jimmy Smith but which also has blossomed on its own. Though largely a Concord recording artist these days, it seems that HighNote still has some Joey sides in the can, thus the release of The Champ Round 2. In addition, dad gets his own say with the first disc under his own name in quite some time.
As an excellent follow-up to the first volume, The Champ Round 2 also pays homage to Jimmy Smith. The main difference between the two sets is largely in personnel, and it's indeed a significant variance. The first set featured a trio with guitarist Randy Johnston and drummer Billy Hart, but Round 2 highlights Joey's regular trio of guitarist Paul Bollenback and drummer Byron Landham. These guys have worked together for years and the understanding they've developed is purely telepathic at this point.
. DeFrancesco's choice of material is again outstanding, drawing from Smith's Blue Note period ("The Champ," Back at the Chicken Shack," "The Sermon") and from his Verve tenure as well ("Greensleeves," "I'm an Old Cowhand," "Oh No, Babe"). The most obscure item of the set, "The Boss," is also one of the best, the original appearing as the title track to one of Smith's hardest to find out-of-print Verve dates. Displaying Joey's inventiveness to great effect, "The Champ" is heard in two versions (starting off and ending the disc) and each one has its own merits. Sound is provided by Rudy Van Gelder, a master when it comes to engineering organ dates. A thoroughly hard blowing romp from start to finish, no more analysis is really needed, just sit back and dig!
Jimmy Smith must have been on Papa John's mind too when he set out to record his most recent effort for High Note, as "The Cat" gets things off to a entertaining start and "Chicken Shack" takes a bow here as well. Joey picks up his trumpet to form an agreeable front line with Philly legend Bootsie Barnes on most of the cuts, although personnel vary from cut to cut. Taking on the feel of those old Prestige jam sessions, this one is definitely more of a groove record and as such the tunes are familiar, namely "Freddie the Freeloader," "Moanin,'" etc. That's not to take anything away from the disc, as fans of organ styled jazz will definitely find much here to their liking.
Track Listing: The Champ Round 2The Champ, Back at the Chicken Shack, Bayou, I'm an Old Cowhand, The Sermon, The Boss, Oh No Babe, Hackensack, Greensleeves, The Champ (The Rematch)Hip Cake WalkThe Cat, Freddie Freeloader, Song For My Father, Milestones, High Rider, Moanin', Back at the Chicken Shack, Latin Groove, Hip Cake Walk
Personnel: The Champ Round 2Joey DeFrancesco (organ), Paul Bollenback (guitar), Byron Landham (drums)Hip Cake Walk'Papa' John DeFrancesco (organ), Joey DeFrancesco (trumpet), Bootsie Barnes (tenor sax), Rob Landham (alto sax), Melvin Sparks (guitar), John DeFrancesco, Jr. (guitar), Byron Landham (drums), Glenn Ferracone (drums), Kevin Jones (percussion)
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.