We love being able to share live performance reviews from our friend Nelson Brill.
Here is a piece from his latest trip to Scullers Jazz Club in Boston.
JOEY DEFRANCESCO AND HIS TRIO AT SCULLERS JAZZ CLUB DELIVER “STONE GROOVES”
BY NELSON BRILL MARCH 1, 2015
If you don’t have a fireplace to gather around in this intense winter season, the next best thing might be to listen to the radiant sounds of Joey DeFrancesco’s classic Hammond B organ/Leslie speaker sound and let DeFrancesco’s soulful touch on this sensual, airy instrument heat you up to operating temperature. That’s what happened when DeFrancesco and his quartet descended on the intimate confines of Scullers Jazz Club (www.scullersjazz.com) in Cambridge, MA. on a frigid February 20, 2015 evening and brought the full house down with their intensely hot grooves. (The evening performance was broadcast live on radio station WGBH [www.wgbh.org) and mc’ed by local radio legend Eric Jackson and Sculler’s own Fred Taylor).
DeFrancesco called this an evening of “Stone Groove,” and from the first notes of his velvet-toned organ bass, the tenacious groove was on. DeFrancesco was joined in this buoyant romp by the stellar young talents of Dan Wilson on guitar, Jason Brown on drums and Mike Boone on acoustic and electric bass. With DeFrancesco at the helm, (checking on each member of his sympathetic band with smiles and knowing glances from behind his keyboard), the music was fierce and flowing with an exuberant heat that never let up.
The blues (fast and furious or slow brewing) were in ample evidence up and down the band’s hot chart for this “Stone Groove” evening at Scullers.
When DeFrancesco manned his organ, it was all blues at a furious pace. DeFrancesco displayed a love for little quips of short high or low organ notes – a little elegant chatter- that led into cascades of runs and dynamic contrasts between soft/loud and major/minor keys. All of this delight was condensed and squeezed into a luscious flow of organ warmth and airy sounds. Wilson’s guitar ran alongside this organ bluster with a sparkling, elegant sound that punctuated DeFrancesco’s creative pounces.
Brown was a humming engine through out on his drum kit, with a great feel for a dampened snare that crackled with splintered light next to the organ’s contrasting plush and velvety tones. At one point, Brown and bassist Boone held a comic little tete a tete in which drum and bass held to a swanky groove, with lots of comic starts and stops. All of this action was to the delight of DeFrancesco, who encouraged the duo to just “keep walking!” (The duet reminded of the radiant swaying blues heard on DeFrancesco’s great version of Ray Charles’ swanky “I’ve Got A Woman” from his superb self titled 2011 recording on HighNote Records).
DeFrancesco also did some elegant walking himself on trumpet (using a treasured mute from Miles Davis, his old comrade in blues arms).
DeFrancesco’s trumpet echoed his ebullient style on organ – little niches of complex notes and runs; interstitial spaces of silences and sharp corners – all adding up to an opulent feast of metallic tones and colors.
As an added treat, DeFrancesco invited up to the stage Trent Austin, a trumpeter from Redding, MA. (who also makes custom trumpets and mouthpieces-www.austincustombrass.com). DeFrancesco and Austin carved up a blues number with Austin’s exuberant trumpet sailing high above DeFrancesco’s surging organ and Wilson’s fleet footed guitar. The fireworks continued with an encore that brought all the funk and groove to a full throttled apex. DeFrancesco pulled out all the [organ] stops by pelted out huge chords and blasts of gleeful running notes while the rest of the band grooved alongside him with a pulse that had the audience dancing in the aisles.
After this inspiring performance at Scullers, a return home to listen to more bright and gutsy Hammond organ recordings found the legendary organist Jimmy Smith in fine form. A superb audiophile gem of Smith’s is his Organ Grinder Swing [Verve], (especially if you can find the original or Japanese pressing version on vinyl!).
With a dream team of Kenny Burrell on guitar and Grady Tate on drums, Smith takes the Old English classic “Greensleeves” and turns this chestnut into a thicket of funky and propulsive sounds raw and vital- foreshadowing DeFrancesco’s own genius. (Keep your ears out too for Burrell’s soulful guitar on the slow brewing “Oh, No, Babe” and Tate’s fastidious snare/cymbal groove on “Blues For J”).
And, of course, there is the dynamic Bruce Katz, a bostonconcertreviews favorite, (both in his live local performances and his great recordings), springing on us his latest release, Homecoming [American Showplace Music]. Here’s Katz and his sterling band delivering their hard-nosed mix of rock, blues and prankish adventure (in the company of many fine guests, including vocals from John Hammond), with Katz’s fiery Hammond B (and crisp piano swing) up front and gloriously personal.
Finally, looking into the future of young Hammond organ players, one finds the vivacious Kevin Coelho, a player with a lot of funk on his mind (and the soulful tone and technique on the Hammond to get right to it).
On his boisterous and funky recording, Turn It Up [Chicken Coup Records], Coelho is joined by guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson and this trio tackles everything from Jimmy Smith to Lennon and McCartney to Coelho’s swinging original tunes- all with verve and a tightly focused sound that is captured on a recording with great image dimensionality and presence.
The velvet glove of the Hammond organ sound (ready to pounce with great funk and creative swing at a moment’s notice) is certainly in good hands!