The State of Organ Jazz 2010 (Part 2): Stanton Moore and Organissimo

C. Michael Bailey By

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The State of Organ Jazz 2010, Part I: Wayne Escoffery, Dan Pratt and Matthew Kaminski dealt with some very fine organ-based jazz, that, for the most part, colored within the lines. This second installment focuses on the organ, guitar and drums trio and is devoted to two artists who definitely got their nuclear funk on: drummer and bandleader Stanton Moore and the organissimo combo.

Is this jazz? Well, not in a Jimmy Smith sort of way. It is more as if Jimmy Smith, James Brown and George Clinton ended up in one of The Fly's telepods, were teleported, and arrived as two, white, power-organ trios well studied in the sacred art of the Clyde Stubblefield back-beat, the Billy Higgins side-wind, and the Melvin Parker sanctified ride.

Stanton Moore

Groove Alchemy

Telarc Records


Stanton Moore's previous recording, Emphasis on (Parenthesis!) (Telarc Jazz, 2008), was a 1970s rock and roll orgy that made every garage band proud to have strummed an out of tune guitar. It was loud and proud, all rough edges. Moore returns with a considerably more focused effort in Groove Alchemy, where he is intent on doing for funk drumming what Bach did for keyboards in his Das Wohltemperirte Clavier; that is, defining it explicitly.

Moore and company try to cover a great deal of ground on this recording, kicking off with a cross between James Brown's "I Feel Good" and Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" on "Squash Blossom," where Moore sets up a seismic back beat propelled by organist Robert Walter's feet. Guitarist Will Bernard takes charge with some dirty lead guitar that he allows to bleed into the next track, "Pie-eyed Manc," that smells faintly of Emerson, Lake and Palmer coupled with Sun Ra. Stanton continues this trend in his survey until he gets to "Keep on Gwine," where Walter plays a barrel-house piano (part Jelly Roll Morton, part Bill Payne) and Bernard plays a wiry slide guitar faintly smelling of Little Feat. That smell gets stronger as Moore plays his best Richie Hayward on the piece.

"Neeps and Tatties" recalls the post-James Brown Maceo Parker recordings with the funky tom-toms of Kenwood Dennard. Bernard plays a bleeding lead guitar solo over the molten funk. "Up To Here" is high octane Booker T. and the MGs. "Knocker" makes a nod at the great Isaac Hayes, while "Cleanse This House" has Walter on both piano and keyboards and Bernard giving a jangling edge to his guitar. "Aletta" is a post-modern Ennio Morricone take off that should have been used in the last remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Bernard's heavily reverbed guitar recalls the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy. The greatest and most delightful surprise is the cover of George Jones's "He Stopped Loving Her Today" that ends the disc. Bernard again plays slide guitar augmented with some standard single-note playing that evolves into full-bore rock and roll before the end.

Stanton Moore still has much to say in the organ trio arena. Groove Alchemy is an excellent master class in funk drumming, and in the art of the trio too.

Visit Stanton Moore on the web.


Alive & Kicking

Big O Records


Where Groove Alchemy was sharply focused on the funky, Organissimo's Alive & Kicking widens the perimeter to include a well-considered live set list. Recorded live (as all jazz should be) in WKAR-TV's Studio A at Michigan State University on April 15, 2009 and the Founder's Brewing Co. on June 27, 2009, Alive & Kicking is a rave-up, barn-burner collection of show displaying the various facets of organ jazz.

Organissimo is a organ, guitar and drums trio made up of organist Jim Alfredson, guitarist Joe Gloss and drummer Randy Marsh. The traditional absence of a bass instrument in the organ trio format is a result of the organ's bass pedals, which Alfredson is expert at employing for the harmonic and rhythmic path of the music. This disc is made up of nine selections, each differing in their respective funk, soul, hard bop and gospel indexes. All of the pieces are designed to slather on the chitlin' circuit grease and turn the gas on high. The combo as a unit is responsible for the eight original compositions presented here. The lone "standard" is Frank Zappa's "Blessed Relief," from The Grand Wazoo (Reprise, 1972).

"Stop Yo' Feet" and "Clap Yo' Hands" are gas-driven boogaloos with differing velocities: fast and faster. The first simmers with funk infection while the last adds complex jazz inflection. "Senior Buffet" exudes a Carlos Santana vibe with an excellent guitar duet from Gloss and Marsh. "Smokin' Section" recalls a Dave Brubeck time-signature smorgasborg like "Blue Rondo A La Turk," where the band seems to pass through all conceivable times. The Jimmy Smith section of the show belongs to "Jimmy Smith Goes to Washington" and "Groovadelphia," where the trio pays proper homage to the Mozart of the medium. Alfredson's deft pedal work and Gloss' tasty accompaniment recall the couplings of Smith and guitarist Kenny Burrell.

The Zappa piece translates quite perfectly when heard through the organ trio prism. It is a complex waltz with a slow, steady momentum and swing. Albertson and Gloss meld well together in forming the piece's integrity. But the disc really is a proper build up to the closer, "Pumkin Pie," which delivers 18 minutes of crazed gospel sanctification. Organissimo plays the entire history of organ jazz on this thrilling coda. Alive & Kicking captures the heart and soul of organ jazz.

Visit Organissimo on the web.

Tracks and Personnel

Groove Alchemy

Tracks: Squash Blossom; Pie-eyed Manc; Pot Licker; Root Cellar; Keep on Gwine; Neeps and Tallies; Up to Here; Knocker; Shiftless; Clense This House; Aletta; He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Personnel: Staton Moore: drums; Robert Walter: Hammond B3 organ and piano; Will Bernard: guitar.

Alive & Kicking

Tracks: Stomp Yo' Feet; Senor Buffet; Smokin's Section; If Not Now, When?; Jimmy Smith Goes to Washington; Clap Yo' Hands; Groovadelphia; Blessed Relief; Pumpkin Pie.

Personnel: Jim Alfredson: Hammond-Suzuki XK3/XK System, Leslie 3300 & Synthesizers; Joe Gloss: guitar; Randy Marsh: drums.

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