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The formidable doctor of organ jazz has been recording under his own name for almost forty years. His title is not an academic or medical recognition but rather a nod from his fellow musicians that acknowledge his ability to "doctor" the music. This is The Turbanator's first release under the Palmetto banner and he gets off to a positive start.
The future of the soul jazz organ trio remains in good hands at a time when many of the first generation practitioners of this sub-genre are either deceased or inactive. The organ-guitar-drum combo presented here is really a timeless musical arrangement, and these recordings could have been made any time over the past few decades. Peter Bernstein provides the link to previous guitarists in this mode, stretching back to Kenny Burrell, Melvin Sparks, Jimmy Ponder and several others, and his current experience with another B-3 specialist (Larry Goldings) makes him a leading figure on his instrument. The addition of a rhythm guitar to the group adds an rich texture to the sound through Rodney Jones' contributions.
Surprisingly, the title track seems to be anything but "Too Damn Hot." It begins as a mid-tempo laid back blues with Bernstein taking the melody line and a tasty solo. Smith follows and while the tempo doesn't change, the temperature does by way of his heated solo which allows the tune to live up to the title reference. Smith's use of a Locked Hands attack at strategic moments throughout the album adds dramatic tension to the tunes. Horace Silver's "Silver Serenade" is slowed down to a soggy ballad that diminishes the melody line. "Track 9" is a heavily percussive original between Greg Hutchinson, Lonnie Smith and Rodney Jones; Peter Bernstein has to amp up his guitar to keep up with them. "Your Mama's Got A Complex" is a funky R&B vamp that has Dr. Smith singing the disposable refrain. With the exception of "Silver Serenade" and "Someday My Prince Will Come," the remaining tracks are all originals.
At a time when more and more jazz organists are using the instrument in an acid jazz or rock/world beat setting, it is refreshing to see that Dr. Lonnie Smith still remains a torch bearer for this venerable form of jazz.
Track Listing: Norleans, Too Damn Hot, Back Track, The Whip, Silver Serenade, Track 9, One Cylinder, Someday My Prince Will Come, Your Mama's Got A Complex, Evil Turn.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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