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Ronnie Foster: Two-Headed Freep

AAJ Staff By

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Like organs and jazz? I love the old Wes Montgomery/Jimmy Smith stuff, and even the classic Walter Wanderley latin material like "Summer Samba" and "O Barquinho". Ronnie Foster’s "Two-Headed Freep" is definately an organ of another color. It’s hip, alive, groovy. The whole album, originally recorded in 1972, has that whole funky 70’s thang goin’ on! Check out some of the titles: "Chunky", "Mystic Brew", "Kentucky Fried Chicken", and the title track of course. It’s definitely got the same kind of vibe as Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. As groovy as today’s acid jazz or even smooth jazz may get, and even with the resurgence of jazz organ under the nimble fingers of Joey DeFrancesco, Larry Goldings, and others, we haven’t heard organ work like this for a long, long time.

The rhythm section of George Duvivier or Gordon Edwards on bass and Jimmy Johnson on drums, is like a train, cookin’ right through the passages, and Foster’s out front sounding the whistle. There are some real burners like the cover "Drowning in the Sea of Love" and the lead-off track "Chunky". These tracks are not fusion, but about as fast and furious as a groove gets. Then there are really hip, mellow, lyrical jaunts like the Foster original "Summer Song". Foster’s lively organ set is complemented by some bright vibe work by George Devens (also on percussion), Gene Bertoncini’s guitar (clean and funky!), Gene Bianco on harp, and Arthur Jenkins on congas.

This release is about feel. I don’t have a library of Ronnie Foster releases, so I can’t speak to his body of work, but he doesn’t demonstrate particularly interesting or astounding technique on these tracks. In fact, his soloing chops are a bit sloppy and the solos tend to be lick-filled, repetitive, and lacking in inspiration and direction. Nonetheless, the ensembles clicks and the playing is right-on for the overall context of the album. Foster’s shortcomings on technique and execution don’t at all detract from the vibe.


Title: Two-Headed Freep | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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