Nick Hempton Slick (Triple Distilled 2021)

NEW RELEASE – NICK HEMPTON

Cat’s foot iron claw, soul jazz freaks scream for more.

NIck Hempton - Slick

Personnel

Nick Hempton (tenor and alto saxophone), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Kyle Koehler (organ), Fukushi Tainaka (drums)

Recorded

in 2020 at GB’s Juke Joint

Released

as Triple Distilled Records 004in 2021

Track listing

The Runaround
Liar’s Dice
Born To Be Blue
Short Shrift
Upstairs Eddy
People Will Say We’re In Love
Snake Oil
The Gypsy
Fryin’ With Fergus
The Masquerade Is Over


Gene Ammons was recognized as a ‘soul’ player. Figurehead of the development from ‘race’ music to soul jazz, “The Boss” or “Jug” was not an innovator but a people’s champion, king of the chitlin’ circuit of black clubs who synchronized modern jazz and blues. Nick Hempton is a postmodern ‘soul’ player. Born in Sydney, Australia and a New York City stalwart for years, Hempton’s meaty but sophisticated style, inspired not only by Ammons but also by Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine and Sonny Stitt (switching equally fluently between tenor and alto sax) is an instantly recognizable delight. He’s smooth, he’s juicy and his tone wears a three-day stubble beard. Hempton, to paraphrase King Crimson, is a 21st century chitlin’ man.

For a couple of years now, Hempton has led an organ group featuring guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, veteran of the Lou Donaldson band. It released Night Owl in 2019, now there’s Slick, recorded on analogue gear at GB’s Juke Joint, one of the reasons why Hempton’s latest outing full of blues-drenched originals and standards is such an enjoyable listen, the musical equivalent of high-class ebony wood. Why so few jazz artists reach back to the warmth – and the force of limitations that comes with it – of vintage engineering is beyond me.

Hempton’s catchy original tunes, based on shuffle, Latin and boogaloo beats, smoke from beginning to end, not least because the saxophonist demonstrates a canny sense of dynamics and tells uplifting stories earmarked by forceful howls, like foghorns in the misty night. Personalities blend like sour, sweet and umami, lusty Hempton with crystalline Bernstein and vibrant Koehler. Bernstein, typically consistent architect of layered passages, plays like an eager young lion. He’s on top of his form. Koehler finds a good balance between grease and bop, his lines swirl around the smoke rings of the juke joint, his comping is subtle and stimulative.

In the borderland of hard bop and soul jazz, these fellows are champions. Hempton’s alto playing is lovely, as People Will Say We’re In Love from Rodgers and Hart (from the musical Oklahoma that also spawned Surrey With The Fringe On Top) convincingly demonstrates, though I prefer the unbeatable tenor/organ combination. It’s been a while since I’ve heard such a warm-blooded interpretation of the blues ballad Born To Be Blue, a long while, and it compares well with the versions of Grant Green and Bobby Timmons.

The band’s most urgent attraction besides shuffle fest Fryin’ With Fergus (catchy titles like Snake Oil, Liar’s Dice and Upstairs Eddy further reflect Hempton’s postmodern chitlin’ aesthetic; note, too, the ‘worn’ black sleeve), no doubt, is Hempton’s uptempo bop tune Short Shrift. Their wheels are on fire and explode. Better watch out for Hempton’s tight-knit NYC organ combo crew.

Nick Hempton

Find Slick here.

Joris Teepe & Don Braden Chemistry (Creative Perspective Music 2021)

NEW RELEASE – JORIS TEEPE & DON BRADEN

Chemical brothers of jazz strike again.

Joris Teepe & Don Braden - Chemistry

Personnel

Joris Teepe (bass), Don Braden (tenor saxophone, flute), Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on May 1 & August 10, 2018 and 2021 at Creative Perspective Studio

Released

as CPM 3006 in 2020

Track listing

Steepian Faith
One Finger Snap
Steps
Song For My Father
Morning
The Optimist
Dizzy’s Business
Unit 7


The Dutch bassist Joris Teepe and American tenor saxophonist Don Braden have been closely associated since the early 1990’s. Their Trio Of Liberty focuses on piano-less jazz featuring different guest drummers. Their first Trio Of Liberty album, 2017’s Conversations, featured Gene Jackson and Matt Wilson and their latest, Chemistry, proudly presents Jeff “Tain” Watts and Louis Hayes.

Sought-after Teepe, collaborator of Benny Golson and Rashied Ali, educator at the conservatory of Groningen in The Netherlands, has immersed himself in the New York scene since 1991. Quote: “I love American jazz and have practically turned into an American. I have a place in Englewood, a work permit and passport.” 20+ albums with Don Braden, exponent of the American school of jazz musicians that steadfastly, regardless of fashion or hype, prowls the borders of mainstream jazz, speaks volumes about their chemistry, evident again on this set of intriguingly arranged modern standards and original compositions.

Braden tells balanced stories with a beginning, plenty of tension, an end and unwavering tone. Teepe anchors Braden’s urgent lines on ‘veird’ blues songs, the funk-meets-swing of his composition The Optimist and solos strongly throughout. Watts is especially melodic on Hancock’s deconstructed One Finger Snap, which is marked by nifty time changes that subtly put you off your feet without entirely knocking you down. Mildly dizzying and quite enjoyable and remarkable. Rhythmic ping pong games round the table, by all concerned, intensify Braden’s lush Steps, which oozes Coltrane and finds Braden in a fiery mood.

Subtle groove pervades Horace Silver’s Song For Your Father, featuring Louis Hayes, veteran of the epic late 1950’s Silver line-up. His semi-slow shuffle on Unit 7, composition by Sam Jones, Hayes’s former band mate from the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, underlines a relaxed and bluesy flute solo by Braden, heir to forebears as Jerome Richardson and James Spaulding. The hard-swinging Dizzy’s Business completes Hayes’s sprightly contributions, typically shaping the movement of tunes with care and punch. With both Watts and Hayes in tow, you get contrasts and similarities of styles and consequently an extra layer of satisfaction.

The warm embrace of bass and tenor climaxes with Braden’s ballad Morning, a duet of modern jazz arrivés that grow old(er) together in perfect harmony.

Joris Teepe & Don Braden

Find Chemistry on Amazon here.

Source: Jazz Bulletin

Freddie Roach - Good Move

Freddie Roach Good Move (Blue Note 1964)

Checkmate: there’s no escaping the dynamic and tasteful organ playing of Freddie Roach.

Freddie Roach - Good Move

Personnel

Freddie Roach (organ), Blue Mitchell (trumpet A2, A4, B1 & B3), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone (A2, A4, B1 & B3), Eddie Wright (guitar), Clarence Johnston (drums)

Recorded

on November 29 & December 9, 1963 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BST 84158 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
It Ain’t Necessarily So
When Malinda Sings
Pastel
Wine, Wine, Wine
Side B:
On Our Way Up
‘T Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way You Do It)
Lots Of Lovely Love
I.Q. Blues


Freddie Roach is remembered primarily by his run of LP’s on Blue Note. It was a fruitful period for the New York City-born organist. His stint of leadership dates in the early and mid-sixties, five in all, was bookended by guest appearances on Ike Quebec records in 1960 and Donald Byrd’s I’m Trying To Get Home in 1965. Jimmy Smith’s popularity was impossible to beat – The Boss had traded Blue Note for Verve in 1963 – but the Afro-American community was enamored by Roach and his singles did well on the jukebox charts, especially Mo’ Greens Please. His albums Down To Earth, Mo’ Greens Please, Good Move, Brown Sugar are perennial favorites.

Pure B3 ‘artiste’, Roach handled his gritty and greasy repertory with care, peppering it with unmistakable gospel feeling while moving his lines with elegance and a canny sense of dynamics. Although Blue Note Roach is the apex of his career, Prestige Roach – he recorded three albums for Bob Weinstock’s label in 1966/67 – is a noteworthy hodgepodge of soul jazz and Latin-tinged jazz, finished off with quirky spiritual desserts. The title of Avatar from The Soul Book speaks volumes.

Attracted to philosophy and esoterica all along, Roach was widely known among colleagues as an intellectual and playwright, even going as far as presenting plays in his garage at home in Newark. In fact, the sleeve of The Soul Book shows Roach holding one of his plays in his hands. He did bit parts in movies and relocated to Los Angeles towards the end of his life, reportedly pursuing a career in theatre. Good move? Well, Roach passed away in California in 1980 at the age of 49. But you only live once and Mr. Roach was the opposite of 9 to 5, living creative life to the full.

Speaking about good moves, Good Move is prime Roach (considering the sleeve, likely prime Roach as a chess player as well), a subtle shift away from the chitlin’ jazz of Mo’ Greens Please and stepping stone to the burned rubber of Brown Sugar. Accompanied by drummer Clarence Johnston, guitarist Eddie Wright and major-league label mates, trumpeter Blue Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, Roach is in his element. The tunes flow elegantly, the band keeps a solid groove and there’s a unity of sound and purpose that makes these Blue Note’s Hammond heart food of the highest order, Grandma’s unforgettable apple pie putting the corner bakery to shame.

It is the second appearance of Mobley on an organ record, the first being Jimmy Smith’s A Date With Jimmy Smith Vol 1 & 2, the last being Grant Green’s I Want To Hold Your Hand with Larry Young, great company and why not merging with the hot tamales of the B3, Hank Mobley cooks and his sophisticated lines blend nicely with the artful grease of giants as Smith, Young and Roach, even if they hardly represent a Mobley career high. The other hard bop champion, Blue Mitchell, snappy here as a fox, buoyant and bluesy, was an organ combo regular. He recorded with Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Big John Patton and preceding Good Move flexed his muscles with Brother Jack McDuff on Harold Vick’s Steppin’ Out. Such a great bunch and, eventually, such a sad loss, Mitchell perishing in 1979 at age 49, Roach passing away in 1980 at age 49 and Mobley steppin’ on a rainbow in 1986 at the age of 55, destitute, burned out, sick and tired. But for many decades now living like a torch light in the hearts of jazz fans around the globe.

The beauty is in the approach of Roach, who commands the diverse components of the organ – generally acknowledged as an “awkward” instrument at heart, a beast that’s hard to tame – like a puppeteer, shifting sounds ever so slightly, tapping the pedals and the bass keyboard notes with effortless swing and letting ideas flow with logic. This man’s got class. He loves to swing on the shuffle beat, as is evidenced by Roach originals as On Our Way Up, Lots Of Lovely Love and Wine, Wine, Wine, which alludes as much to the party songs of Wynonie Harris, Floyd Dixon or Smiley Lewis than to the sermons of the preacher at the downtown church. All of them use smashed grapes to great effect one way or the other.

Varied tonal colors mark the jaunty ‘T Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) and his succinct ballad reading of Erroll Garner’s Pastel. Roach’s workout of It Ain’t Necessarily So moves from waltz to 4/4 and finds Roach at the zenith of his ability to tell a short story. We’re just pawns in his hip and tasteful game.

Photography: Joke Schot

Shaw ‘Nuff!

On audience with Jarmo Hoogendijk, trumpeter that reminisces on the impact of befriending Woody Shaw and sophisticated teacher that found a balance between old-school mentoring and modern education. “Better leave that study room once in a while and have a ball.”

Sparkling sounds, vibrant cadenzas, sassy sideways to the outskirts of chords, crystal clearly phrased and balanced lines of stories that reflected the ethos of the great helmsmen like his mentor and house guest Woody Shaw and updated it for the fin de siècle of the 21st jazz century. Dutch trumpeter Jarmo Hoogendijk was a frontrunner of the generation that gave jazz new élan in the late 1980’s and beyond, featured in the acclaimed Ben van den Dungen/Jarmo Hoogendijk Quintet and the Afro-Cuban big band Nueva Manteca. He began his career in the prime Dutch big band The Skymasters and further played alongside Freddie Hubbard, Teddy Edwards, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Frank Foster, Junior Cook, Art Taylor, Rein de Graaff, Cindy Blackman, Rufus Reid and Lewis Nash. Irreparable problems with his embouchure untimely ended his career as a professional jazz musician in 2004.

From that moment on, Hoogendijk extended his teaching career with the same flair that he displayed as a professional musician. Today, Hoogendijk is mentor and teaches trumpet, ensemble and vocals classes at the conservatories of Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague. Hoogendijk himself graduated at the prehistoric boulders of jazz teaching. The system had been under construction since the 1970’s and teachers were jazz heroes that invented methods on the spot, among others pianist Rob Madna, trombonist Erik van Lier, saxophonist Ferdinand Povel, trumpeter Ack van Rooyen and pianist Frans Elsen. “It was like the Wild West. Reportedly, Ben (van den Dungen, FM) once had a musical dispute with Frans Elsen and things got out of hand in a bar. Suddenly Ben was on top of Frans, fists clenched and shouting: ‘Don’t expect me to be afraid of you, rotten dwarf!’ The thing was, next day they let bygones be bygones. That’s how it worked back then. Beautiful era.”

Nowadays, the conservatory landscape is strongly professionalized, an area of draught-free buildings with double-glazing and solar panels, so to speak. No need of renovation. Or is there? Critics do not pull any punches. Hoogendijk acknowledges sore points but proudly defends his line of work. Intelligently rebutting presumptions seems second nature to the blond-grey resident of mainstream jazz city #1, The Hague, who receives the Flophouse crew at his neatly arranged apartment just outside the city center. A record cabinet looms large over his shoulders in the anteroom. Newspapers and Doctor Jazz Magazine are on the kitchen and coffee table.

FM: When was the first time you saw Woody Shaw perform?
JH: “In March 1985. I went to see Freddie Hubbard but his performance was cancelled and was replaced by the Woody Shaw/Joe Farrell band. Before the gig, Woody was in the foyer alone. I saw him doing Tai Chi exercises, that was quite a sight. The concert blew my head off. He was so incredibly in top form, unbelievable! He played 20+ blues choruses and the intensity and originality grew with each chorus. That gig was recorded on cassette. I immediately started to research his solo’s.”

FM: When was the first time you met him?
JH: “That was in 1986. I went to George’s Jazz Café in Arnhem with Ben. Woody played with the Cedar Walton Trio. We got to talking. From then on we met at concerts. Woody regularly stayed at the place of road manager Bob Holland. I met him over there and we chatted and studied together. Sometimes I took him out on a trip or to concerts or he visited my shows with Nueva Manteca. At some point, he was at my place and asked if he could stay overnight. Eventually, he stayed a couple of weeks and that was the last time that I saw him. It was pretty intense because Woody was quite a volatile character. People that act on such a high creative level are sensitive and vulnerable and sometimes self-destructive. And probably as a consequence things can get rough. Woody was like that. Wise but someone who in reality doesn’t know how to cope with life! But despite all of this, we also laughed a lot.”

FM: What do you do when you have Woody Shaw as a sleepover?
JH: “Listening to music, chatting. Doing groceries, cooking. And going to jam sessions. Back then I lived right beside café De Sport, a flourishing and legendary jazz spot. At that time in his life, Woody rarely touched his instrument. But one day he said, ‘Ok, I feel like playing a bit’. We went to De Sport where the regular trio of pianist Frans Elsen featuring bassist Jacques Schols and drummer Eric Ineke was playing. Physically, Woody was in bad shape. But his playing was totally enchanting. I remember that he played The Man I Love, very subdued and humbling. When we finished, Woody made clear that he wanted to go home and have some sleep. This was very unlike Woody! He said, ‘I believe that this was the last time that I played.’ Incredibly and unfortunately, it was.”

FM: He was one of the great innovators of jazz trumpet and a keeper of the flame, preaching modern jazz at a time when fusion was the big thing.
JH: “Definitely. If there is one trumpeter that embodies the whole history of jazz but who is totally original, it’s Woody. What more could you ask for? His playing echoed Louis Armstrong and at the same time was super hip. It’s the max. When Shaw lived in Europe during the last years of his life, few musicians actually knew who he was or how great he was. If you ask about Shaw nowadays, many trumpeters pick him as their big favorite.”

FM: What are your favorite Woody Shaw recordings?
JH: “My favorites are live recordings. I think, however great he was, that he was less comfortable in the studio. Live is a totally different ballgame. Those posthumous albums that were instigated by his son Woody III, like the Bremen and Tokyo albums, as well as the the High Note releases, are unbelievably good. How can someone who lives such a chaotic personal life act at such a continuous high level? It’s astonishing. I have a lot of bootleg cassette tapes from live performances and radio broadcasts from the 1970’s and 1980’s. That’s when you hear him playing totally different and original versions of the same compositions night after night. Truly amazing. His memory was fabulous and his ears were pitch-perfect.”

FM: What did you learn from Woody Shaw?
JM: “Study at least 8 hours a day when you’re young, over and over again. That’s the only way to become great at what you do. But also have a bit of a ball, go out, experience life. Woody was absurd. His constitution must’ve been very strong. Same goes for Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis, I think. Woody studied eight or nine hours every day, then went to a gig and a jam session afterwards. Every day, every week, on and on. Who can put that thing in his mouth for so long? Woody III told me that he should not dare to come in his dad’s room with this or that message, like ‘telephone’ or ‘dinner’s ready’. He just didn’t hear him and kept on playing! He was one with the trumpet. But he also partied hard.”

“Woody heard me study a couple of times. He rarely gave comments but one time he said: “Man, don’t try to play like me. You’re not ready for that stuff. First listen to Lee Morgan and his cadenza on Night In Tunesia. Then we’ll talk again.”

FM: I have the feeling that students today are too well-mannered. Well at least for my taste. Where’s the son of a bricklayer that kicks ass? I realize this might be false romanticism.
JH: “Think twice. I’ve seen plenty of very talented youngsters go berserk. That’s what happens with the ones who already have a lot to say on their instrument. If somebody threatens to go overboard, we will have a talk. But I will be honest and mention that I was no saint! But as a matter of fact, I’m more worried about students that are always dressed immaculate, whose hair is neatly combed and who are never a minute late and perfectly prepared. No mistaking, that’s good. But then again, something must be wrong!”

FM: How do you teach? A bit like your mentor, the late great Ack van Rooyen?
JH: “The things he said took a long time to sink in. Ack talked about developing stories, grabbing the listener’s attention, becoming a unity with the rhythm section. And putting that thing out of your mouth now and then. These realizations come with age. I’m sure that some of my students will sometimes mutter, ‘what’s that old sock saying?!’ Ack was beautiful, we went to jam sessions together till the wee wee hours but be in class next morning at ten. He was very kindhearted but also to the point. I remember one time, I was playing a piece and Ack said: ‘Yes, Jar, you have no trouble handling the trumpet, but I haven’t heard anything beautiful.’ Bam, uppercut. But then he touched my arm and said: ‘The power of youth…’. Beautiful. As a teacher you need to be supportive but able to say things like, ‘ok, fine but your timing is bad.’ I also strictly believe in the advice of Stan Getz, who said that ‘the only thing you need is better players around you.’

FM: Aren’t there too many students? Each year, graduates try to find work in a relatively small cultural environment.
JH: “Well, every faculty group needs a diverse section of instruments to sustain ensembles. I realize that not everybody becomes a star performer. There are students that are not entirely convincing but nevertheless demonstrate plenty of progress after the first year. There’s that side of the coin. From all my trumpet students in my career, there is only one that dropped out. The rest is involved in music one way or the other, whether as a recording artist and performer, teacher, event organizer, in an orchestra section or semi-professional. I do have one proposal. It would be good if we had the possibility to end associations with students in the 2nd or 3rd year. Not to be harsh, but to give them a chance for a couple more years with a more suitable education. However, the legal basis is tricky.”

FM: Conservatories teach skills. Shouldn’t they focus more on finding personal styles?
JH: “You’re nowhere without grammar, vocabulary, skills. And finding styles in the beginning equates with copying. Even the greatest innovators in jazz initially were imitators of their heroes. As a teacher, you have to be flexible. The choice is theirs. Some students graduate without a very distinctive style. Still, they usually end up somewhere in the creative industry. As others are concerned, it’s all about elaborating on the phrasing, timing and dynamic that our voices have developed since birth and not about the notes but how you play them. What they play is a matter of preference. A lot of students experiment with odd meter. That’s fine. But it’s not new by any means. Is that really the core of your story?”

FM: I read pianist Kaja Draksler saying that ‘the lack of originality today is not only due to the conservative teaching techniques but also to the tendency to urge the students to describe that unique sellable aspect of their music. Schools dedicate hefty chunks of self-advertising, press kits, promotion etc. It’s better to focus on music.’ Do you agree?
JH: “That’s a good argument. I’d like to add some comments because there’s more to it. You need to have some background. Nowadays, there is a worrisome focus on diversity and inclusion. In essence, these concepts are ok. But now they are part of governmental strategy. It’s coercion and part of the general tendency to undermine ‘elitist’ art. But you can’t put artists and art forms on the same scales. The result is that clubs and theaters are forced to adapt to top-down norms. The norm is what sells and then you get more of the same.”

“The mindset of students and musicians subsequently drifts towards diverse and inclusive projects. That’s why Eastern instruments, predominant in the experiments of the 1970’s, are used again. It’s exotic. It’s forced by the institutions. Without the ud or sitar, it’s hard to get a grant! That’s my complaint. Exactly because I feel that every new thing is ok with me but it should be introduced without outside force. One of the all-time lows was a rapper that fronted the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. That’s what they call ‘coloring outside the lines’. It was very painful. It’s like herring topped with whip cream. Imagine how all those violinists felt. All those years of studying and now this. I’m a fan of classical music and I respect the genre of rap. But in all fairness, the best backing group for the rapper is his posse.”

“What the establishment should do is focus on kids and start with free tickets, as the leftist politician Jan Marijnissen once wisely proposed. Or else it should be no problem to invite school classes to rehearsals at concert halls, sit between musicians or listen to explanations of the conductor. Same goes for jazz. There are plenty of jazz personalities with great stories.”

Jarmo Hoogendijk

Selected discography:

Ben van den Dungen/Jarmo Hoogendijk Quintet, Heart Of The Matter (Timeless 1987)
Rein de Graaff/Dick Vennik Quartet & Sextet, Jubilee (Timeless 1989)
Rob van Bavel, Daydreams (RVB 1989)
Nueva Manteca, Afrodisia (Timeless 1991)
Bik Bent Braam, Howdy (Timeless 1993)
Ben van den Dungen/Jarmo Hoogendijk Quintet, Double Dutch (Groove 1995)
Nueva Manteca, Let’s Face The Music And Dance (Blue Note 1996)
Beets Brothers, Powerhouse (Maxanter 2000)

Check out Jarmo’s website here.

Here’s Jarmo Hoogendijk as part of the interview series of the Dutch Jazz Archive Jazzhelden.

Mike LeDonne It’s All Your Fault (Savant 2021)

BEST OF B3 2021! #1 – MIKE LEDONNE

You can feel that he feels the bop organ groove in his bones. Mike LeDonne gives it his all on his latest, It’s All Your Fault.

MIke LeDonne - It's All Your Fault

Personnel

Mike LeDonne (organ), Frank Green, Joe Magnarelli, Jon Faddis & Joshua Bruneau (trumpet), Eric Alexander & Scott Robinson (tenor saxophone), Jim Snidero & Steve Wilson (alto saxophone), Jason Marshall (baritone saxophone), Dion Tucker, Doug Purviance, Mark Patterson & Steve Davis (trombone), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)

Recorded

on February 12 & 13, 2020 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as SCD 2183 in 2021

Track listing

It’s All Your Fault
Matador
Rock With You
Still
Party Time
Bags And Brown
Biggest Part Of Me
Blues For Jed


Appropriately, Mike LeDonne, like his heavyweight friends and colleagues, guitarist Peter Bernstein, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and drummer Joe Farnsworth on It’s All Your Fault, is a regular at club Smoke in New York City. LeDonne is a first-class burner. His well-known resumé includes associations with Milt Jackson, Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins. He has maintained extraordinary careers on piano and organ and has released numerous records with his Groover Quartet.

The Groover Quartet is present on his latest outing on Savant, which is dedicated to Lonnie Smith – it’s all ‘his’ fault that he hipped so many musicians to the beauty of Hammond playing. The band is expanded with a big brass and reed ensemble, and LeDonne feels like a fish in the water. He’s plainly on fire and duly stimulated by the punchy and sassy parts of the ensemble members. They’re like masseurs and trainers that have prepared their world-class athlete for his Olympic game. This record, recorded at Rudy van Gelder Studio in New Jersey, oozes the classic organ jazz feeling and it’s over before you know it.

LeDonne masters all aspects of the art of B3 down to the last detail and occasionally even reaches back to the orchestral style of pioneer Wild Bill Davis in a live setting. “Davis bits” tastefully permeate LeDonne’s version of Lionel Ritchie’s ballad Still, but It’s All Your Fault mainly consists of hardcore hard bop. Delicious, hard-swinging stuff. LeDonne performs thrilling versions of Grant Green’s Matador and Lee Morgan’s Party Time. In the flexible tradition of soul jazz, the organist transforms pop into jazz and swings merrily and funky on a shuffle version of Michael Jackson’s Rock With You, a long-time staple of LeDonne’s live sets.

He penned a couple of fine originals. Among them, Bags And Brown (guess who), a catchy tune and arrangement that brings back to life the vibe of the epic Ray Charles Band and its musical director Hank Crawford. Speaking of bands, LeDonne’s band of New York brothers sounds fresh, tight and driven and sparks fly off Alexander and Bernstein’s solo’s. And LeDonne? Well, he plainly remains the unbeatable modern jazz organist.

Mike LeDonne

Find It’s All Your Fault on Amazon here.

Adam Scone Low & Slow (Rondette/Cellar Live 2021)

BEST OF B3 2021! #2 – ADAM SCONE

Surprising adventure of real slow funk jazz turns out remarkably well.

Adam Scone - Low & Slow

Personnel

Adam Scone (organ), Ian Hendrickson-Smith (baritone saxophone), Tom Beckham (vibraphone), Tsutomo Nakai (guitar), Aaron Thurston (drums)

Recorded

on October 29, 2017 at GB’s Juke Joint, Long Island

Released

as RJ-1020 in 2021

Track listing

Psychedelic Eye
I Guess It’s Really Over Now
Shout
You’ve Changed
Low & Slow
Love Me Tender


Adam Scone was at the vanguard of the Hammond revival in the early 1990’s. He was featured in one of the hottest soul and funk jazz outfits around, The Sugarman 3. Ever since, Scone played and recorded prolifically with Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Cobb and the late great singer Naomi Shelton. His cooperation with soul jazz drum pioneer Ben Dixon gives you an idea of his passion for tasteful groove and grease and whom was present at his shows with the extraordinary soul singer hero Lee Fields remembers Scone’s uplifting Hammond sounds vividly.

Scone recorded quite a few albums as a leader. The funny title of I Scream Scone should not go unmentioned. All his records ooze with gritty soul and funk. Low & Slow, recorded on Rondette and distributed by Cellar Live, moves at a considerably slower pace. It’s comforting stuff, like the feeling of chocolate milk and marshmallows settling down in your stomach, like the feeling of relaxing in front of the fireplace, listening to the crackling of wood blocks, staring at the flames, no hurry no worry… The “lazy’ gait makes Scone’s contemporary update of vintage black soul jazz all the more refined and intense.

Low & Slow‘s meshing of baritone saxophone, vibraphone and Hammond organ is strangely attractive, at once contrasting and a unified whole, dense and glowing. Baritone saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith contributes a couple of strong earthy solo’s. Ballads and blues-based tunes follow opener Psychedelic Eye, a nod to the recently deceased Hammond hero Dr. Lonnie Smith, who recorded Psychedelic Pi many moons ago. If anyone is heir to Lonnie Smith, it’s Adam Scone. Scone pulls some rabbits from the hat and nails Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender, a sensitive gospel-drenched cover. Tears For Fears’ Shout is the album’s uptempo tune, a shuffle groove intensified by Scone’s resourceful style and a spicy gem that strengthens Scone’s mesmerizing low and slow Hammond stew.

Adam Scone

Find Low & Slow here.

Joe Alexander - Blue Jubilee

Joe Alexander Blue Jubilee (Jazzland 1960)

Unsung and acclaimed hard boppers meet for thoroughly enjoyable jazz jubilee.

Joe Alexander - Blue Jubilee

Personnel

Joe Alexander (tenor saxophone), John Hunt (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Albert Heath (drums)

Recorded

on June 20, 1960 at Bell Sound Studios, New York City

Released

as JLP 923 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blue Jubilee
Brown’s Town
Side B:
I’ll Close My Eyes
Terri’s Blues
Weird Beard


The history of the jubilee goes back to Judaism. Hebrews celebrated liberation from slavery every fifty years. Their concept of the jubilee trickled down to Roman Catholic culture, altered as works of repentance and piety, all the way to religious Afro-Americans who sang songs of emancipation and future happiness. Joe Alexander’s Blue Jubilee, obviously it wouldn’t be red or green or yellow, indirectly refers to the latter practices and its sense of relief and buoyancy is contagious. It’s the only record of the unknown tenor saxophonist from Birmingham, Alabama and a good’n.

And make that two unknowns, since Alexander’s frontline colleague is John Hunt, neither a household name though familiar to diehards as the excellent trumpeter in the Ray Charles band and, a bit later on in the early and mid-1960’s, the group of Charles’s former musical director, saxophonist Hank Crawford. They are supported by Bobby Timmons on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums, success guaranteed. The trio – in 1959 and 1960, hit maker Timmons (Moanin’, This Here) had gone from Art Blakey to Cannonball Adderley and back to Blakey, sharing stages with Sam Jones during his successful Adderley stint) fulfills its promise as a front-rank hard bop outfit, clearly enjoying the carefree, blues-drenched vibe. Blue Jubilee radiates with the pleasure of making good-time music together.

Tenor saxophonist with a hard tone, Joe Alexander reminds of Sonny Stitt, though bop figures are less prominent in his bag. John Hunt is a lively trumpeter, no virtuoso but someone who tells little lilting stories, combining one phrase to another with vocalized bends and slurs that enthuse the listener, likely a positive side effect of having limited time to do your thing in the Ray Charles band. Their ensembles are uplifting and they play sassy up-tempo melodies as Hank Crawford’s Weird Beard and Norris Austin’s Brown’s Town, kept interesting by tight-knit stop time rhythm and typical, sparkling gospel-meets-bop solos of Bobby Timmons. Another one who sounds very good is Albert “Tootie” Heath, whose snare beat accents on the mid-tempo blues tune Blue Jubilee, a succinct game of tension and release, properly activate the soloists. Most of all, and thinking back about other recordings, it seems to be typical, Heath sounds so amazingly crisp and urgent. Give the drummer some.

Then there’s the ballad I’ll Close My Eyes, definitely not a fossilized and predictable ritual and marked by a meaty and energetic solo by Joe Alexander. Alexander’s sole recording is a festivity of joy, catharsis and hope very well-spent.