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CD Review


Joey DeFrancesco - Organic Vibes
Concord Records
        When people think of modern B-3 organ jazz, they're gonna think about one artist: Joey DeFrancesco. And while that may not be fair to a few of the other new-breed organists who also have game like Larry Goldings and Mike LeDonne, DeFrancesco was there first when organ-based groove jazz was getting hot again and he has remained at the forefront of the enduring sub-genre. In fact, you can take the organ-playing part out of it and basically he is, along with a few of the Marsalis family and maybe Harry Connick Jr., one of the best known names of the new breed of jazz artists playing right now.
        Consequently, he is held to task whenever he releases a new CD. Is the concept interesting? Does it tread the same old ground or break into something new? Is the artist or the listener being stretched? These are all questions that are asked of a new DeFrancesco release and whether anyone believes they should be asked of all new releases or not, it doesn't matter. DeFrancesco is one of the artists who is held to a higher standard when it comes to a jazz release. Consequently, DeFrancesco (as all musicians really should) has to figure out a way to give his fans something extra, and switch up his approach from release to release.
        To that end, he has invited master vibraphone player Bobby Hutcherson to guest on his new album. Hutcherson is a jazz veteran who has been a leader for many years and has played on albums with a variety of groove jazz players, and even a few of the great organists of the '60's like Jimmy Smith. Still, an organ/vibes session is a relatively rare thing and worthy of special attention. Another aspect of note on this album is how much room DeFrancesco manages to leave for his guests, the other being tenor saxophonist George Coleman. The cliche of an organ player is one of a frenetic, dominant soloist who stomps all over a song leaving little room for his band to be heard. While DeFrancesco has never been this way, he steps back even further on this record than he normally does, leaving his guest soloists plenty of space and causing him to tighten up his solos and really pick his spots. The result is revelatory. While DeFrancesco has always been a mature soloist, he manages to distill his genius into the sharpest, tersest, hit-home-and-get-out playing of his career on this album. It is possibly the best performance by DeFrancesco in a career full of wonderful work and marks a new era in his career, one of maturity and leaving a legacy instead of seeing how many notes can be played over a change. Like I said, DeFrancesco has never been someone who monopolizes the situation - he has consistently played for the good of the song over the years. Just now, he has learned to pare his playing down to the genius, like Duke Ellington or Miles Davis. This is the start of a big deal for DeFrancesco and a great deal for his fans. This album is wonderful.
        This album will not only appeal to fans of the B-3 organ groove-style jazz sub-genre and the fans of the vibraphone, but will also appeal to jazz fans in general, no matter what particular style they enjoy most. This is a rarity in the world of jazz (and pretty much all music really) where most times fans choose up according to a certain instrument or style and have little love for the rest. This album should make a lot of jazz fans happy and make even make a whole lot of new jazz fans. You gotta get this album. - Scott Homewood




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