Organ albums have always been the comfort food of jazz. Buying one of the classics from the fifties and sixties, the line-up is almost certain (guitar and/or sax, drums, never
a bass), and a bunch of songs that would satisfy some primal need for deep, funky grooves. However, this predictability ensured that a lot of them were pretty interchangeable, and after buying three or four of them it became apparent that there probably wasn't a need for any more. But just at the time when it seemed like the format had grown stale, there was a guy like Larry Young
, working the fringes, and proving that the blues, and song titles laden with apostrophes were not all that the organ could offer.
Jordan Young Group is clearly in the latter camp, and has absolutely nailed the idiom. Its debut recalls the adventurous glories of Larry Young's Into Something
(Blue Note, 1964) in sound and spirit; this record sounds like it was recorded smack dab in the sixties with the same juju and an equal level of taste and finesse. There's only one blues on here; most are tricky, engaging compositions, like Pat Metheny
's "H and H," Duke Pearson
's "Jean de Fleur" and Joe Henderson
's "Afro-Centric," along with some deft originals.
Jordan Young is actually the drummer of the group, but surrounds himself with a terrific cast of musicians. Brian Charette
churns notes on the organ with the best of them, creating some tasty solos while comping beautifully; the organ is a notoriously tricky instrument to play as tastefully as he does. Yotam Silberstein
plays the guitar fully in the Grant Green
and Kenny Burrell
mode, which is as it should be, given the string of classic organ jazz recordings those guys handled with aplomb. Tenor saxophonist Joe Sucato
avoids the breathy, swooping style of common organ blowers with nicknames like "Gator Tail" or "Swamp Bottom," and plays in a style more like Wayne Shorter
, even on the blues he contributes. Young is content to fan the flames from the back, taking the occasional solo, but more or less keeping everything in line, focused on the group effort.
The end product is one of the best organ jazz albums in years. The song selection is superb; varied, challenging, and arresting six-minute workouts that work through a variety of moods and styles. A couple of standards to keep things honest, a few tricky numbers for street cred, and some abstract noodling for fun. The run-through of "Jean de Fleur" is scorching, and probably the best thing here; Young's own "Claudes Monet" is a wonderfully beautiful tune that promises great things in the future.
Jordan Young Group hits the sweets spot between inspiration and imitation, creating an album that one of its idols might have made, but doesn't make you want to pick up one of their
records instead. A triumphant debut.