Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Yet Another Ambitiously Fun Album and a Couple of Smoke Dates from Organist Brian Charette

Brian Charette gets a lot of ink here, partly because he’s been so ubiquitous. He’s gone back to his original instrument, the piano for some gigs including a turn with erudite, infectiously charismatic chanteuse Audrey Bernstein, as well as leading his own organ jazz groups. And he keeps putting out albums, all of them infused with his signature wit and penchant for pushing the envelope out of the organ jazz ghetto. If you’re down with the B3 jazz cult, toe-tapping gin lounge grooves are great fun, but like his fellow A-list organists Barbara Dennerlein and Jared Gold, Charette keeps reinventing the genre. His latest release, Alphabet City – most of which is streaming at Posi-Tone Records – is a characteristically eclectic, fun mix. of tunes. He’s doing a two-night album release stand uptown at Smoke on July 15 and 16 with sets at 7 and 9 PM; cover is just $15, which is a real deal at this place. And if the prix-fixe menu doesn’t match your requirements, you can always hang back at the bar where the sound is just as good as it is in the rest of the room.

The album is a trio session with Will Bernard on guitar and Rudy Royston on drums. You probably wouldn’t associate Royston – another increasingly ubiquitous guy – with this kind of music, but his extrovert drive is a good match for the bandleader’s sense of humor. The album kicks off with East Village, a bubbly, bustling shuffle with a subtly carnivalesque undercurrent – which makes sense considering what’s happened to the neighborhood. The band follows that with They Left Fred Out, a catchy, jauntily syncopated soul-jazz strut with characteristic Charette wit. After that, West Village, a suave swing number, has a similarly erudite, nonchalant Bernard solo at the center – and toward the end, Charette throws a few jabs toward the snobs.

Royston proves to be the perfect sparring partner for Charette’s boisterous, googly-eyed ELP riffage in the sardonically titled Not a Purist. Sharpie Moustache, a funky shuffle with a droll Zombies quote and a gorgeous oldschool soul chorus, might be a Jimmy Smith homage – remember how he had that retro facial hair thing going on?

Bernard’s sparkly hammer-ons move front and center as the latin-tinged vamp Disco Nap gets underway. The album’s best and most riveting number is Hungarian Major, a creepy, chromatically fueled, genre-defying piece, Bernard’s bell tones glimmering against Charette’s funereal Balkan syncopation. Is this Eastern European art-rock? Romany jazz? Circus music? How about all of the above?

After the sly, satirically-infused previous two downtown New York numbers, Avenue A has a disarming wistfulness set to a calm clave groove. Damn, back when the LES was Loaisaida, it sure was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? Likewise, Detours, a catchy swing anthem, leaves no doubt that taking the long way this time around was the right move, Bernard’s catchy, looping riffage setting the stage for Royston to rumble.

Charette contrasts murky atmospherics and woozily loopy pedal lines with a deadpan, lackadaisical pop hook throughout Split Black – a psychological term for how borderline personalities go off the deep end.  A hazy southern soul-tinged waltz, White Lies brings to mind similar low-key collaborations between Jimmy Smith and Jim Hall. The album winds up with the oldschool 60s-style shuffle The Vague Reply, both Bernard and Royston getting plenty of room to raise the energy level. By now, it’s clear that Charette doesn’t give a damn – he’s going to do what he always does without any regard for limitations. Best case scenario is that he brings some new fans into the organ demimonde while managing to to drag the purists into his camp without any kicking and screaming.

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July 12, 2015 Posted by | gypsy music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jared Gold Pushes the B3 Envelope

In a way, organist Jared Gold is to the Posi-Tone label what Willie Dixon was to Chess: he seems to be on practically all their records. And why not? He’s a good player, and he’s literally never made a bad album. His fifth as a bandleader, Golden Child, has been out for a few months: fans of organ jazz who’re looking for something imaginative and different should check out this unpredictable effort, by far his most original and cutting-edge album to date. His 2010 album Out of Line was 60s vamps; All Wrapped Up, from 2011, was a diverse effort with horns that explored swing, noir and New Orleans styles. This album finds him pushing the envelope a la Larry Young without referencing Young directly: it’s about as far from “Chicken Shack music” as you can possibly get. How radical is this? Rhythmically, most (but not all) of this is familiar B3 grooves, Gold walking the pedals with a brisk precision over drummer Quincy Davis’ terse shuffles; tunewise, a lot of this is pretty far out there. Track after track, Gold defiantly resists resolution, pushing consonance away in favor of an allusive, sometimes mysterious melodic language that changes vernacular constantly. Gold doesn’t stay with any particular idea long – a typical song here goes from atmospherically chordal to bits of warped blues phrasing, hammering staccato atonalities and momentary cadenzas in the span of thirty seconds or less. Guitarist Ed Cherry is the cheery one here and makes an apt foil for Gold, holding the melodic center, such that it is.

The slowly shuffling, syncopated opening take of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come takes the same liberties with the melody that Cooke would take with the rhythm when he sang it live: much of it is unrecognizable, and for the better, it’s not like we need another slavishly reverential cover of this song. The album closes with the most off-center cover of When It’s Sleepy Time Down South you’ll ever hear: although it swings, Satchmo himself might not recognize it. And Gold reinvents Johnny Nash’s cloying rocksteady hit I Can See Clearly Now with more than a little gleeful irony: this twisted reworking is nothing like what you hear in the supermarket. Gold starts with a particularly abrasive setting on the organ, hints at the blues, abruptly shifts from major to minor, all along peppering his digressions with fragments of the original as Cherry pulls it in the direction of Memphis soul (a style he mines here very memorably). The first of the Gold originals, Hold That Thought develops with a vivid sense of anticipation that never delivers any expected payoff, Davis’ flurrying breaks adding to the tension. The title track is all allusion: an out-of-focus ballad, unsettling rhythmic shifts, a nicely casual but biting, chromatically-charged Cherry solo and refusenik blues by Gold. Their cover of Wichita Lineman goes for wide-angle angst for a second before taking the theme in and out a la the Johnny Nash track, over and over before Cherry finally brings it into momentary focus right before the end.

Cherry’s tastefully terse blues and Memphis phrasing serve as sweetness versus Gold’s atonalities on another original, 14 Carat Gold, a sardonic midtempo soul strut. Likewise, their takes on a spiritual, I Wanna Walk and a bit later, In a Sentimental Mood both take familiar tropes and warp them, Gold simply refusing to hit the changes head on: and then, on the Ellington, just as it looks like it’s going to be all weird substitutions and no wave, Cherry dives in with aplomb and sends it out with a jaunty chordal crescendo over Davis’ mini-hailstorm. Underneath the persistent melodic unease, there’s a lot of ironic humor here, most obviously on the practically frantic Times Up, Gold’s pedals sprinting nimbly in 5/4 and then cleverly shifting the tempo straight ahead, Cherry walking through the raindrops, Davis finally getting some space to play sniper, so he machineguns it. It’s a fair bet that years from now, organists will be citing this album as an important moment in the history of the genre – and the devious fun these guys are having becomes more apparent with repeated listening.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, organ music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vivid, Catchy, Intense Compositions from Tom Tallitsch

Saxophonist Tom Tallitsch has a strong, diverse and thoroughly enjoyable album, Heads or Tales, out recently with Jared Gold on organ, Dave Allen on guitar and the semi-ubiquitous Mark Ferber on drums. Tallitsch plays with a slightly smoky tone and a light touch, heavy on the nuance which makes him sneaky fast – when he has to drive home a particular phrase, it doesn’t take a lot of effort. The result is impeccable taste: the melodies get plenty of time to breathe here. There are no stampedes to the finish line, but there’s a terrific amount of sympatico playing and strong compositions. Don’t file this one away in the postbop ghetto.

Maybe this is par for course from a guy who can be very allusive, but the album starts off on a bit of a wishy-washy if well-played note with the rhythmically tricky Coming Around, a sort of warmup with lots of steady minor blues scales from Tallitsch and Allen. Then they give you the gem, Tenderfoot, which sounds like a Marc Ribot noir classic, but done as straight-up jazz rather than dramatic, cinematic main title theme. Beginning as a staggered bolero, morphing into a slinky organ boogie lit up by suspenseful staircases by Tallitsch, they swing it through a series of Middle Eastern-tinged riffs and then out with graceful filigrees from Allen. It’s one of the most evocative jazz songs you’ll hear this year.

They follow that up with the briskly walking Double Shot, which is essentially a souped-up blues with Gold at the absolute top of his game as trickster, setting up a satisfying series of alley-oops from Allen early on, harmonizing with Tallitsch and then casually making his way through a cruelly tricky series of right-vs-left rhythms when it’s time for a solo. By contrast, Perry’s Place could be a lakehouse theme – it seems to be the kind of joint where you can start the day at noon with a hot dog and a couple of bloody marys. Contentment and good companionship shine through Allen’s slow, richly judicious solo, Gold’s sunny midsummer chords and then Tallitsch’s methodical arc to a crescendo. Gold goes back to ham it up again in the funk-infused Flat Stanley; later on, The Lummox is Tallitsch’s moment to draw a caricature – in this case, of somebody who’s basically a hopeless doofus even if they have a serious side.

There are three more tunes here. Travel Companion swings with a carefree but purposeful vibe, Tallitsch reaching for the lows on tenor, Gold switching up his pedal rhythm artfully. Dunes vividly depicts a rolling, crepuscular tableau, a suspenseful series of shifts between sax and organ that Allen eventually gets to spice up with additional bounce. The album winds up with Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down, done as you would pretty much expect, understatedly and tastefully, after hearing everything that came before. You could call this a good driving record, and it is, but the thought and creativity that went into it obviously transcends that label: the more you hear it, the better it gets. Another winner from Posi-Tone.

May 19, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soulful Late-Night Grooves from David Gibson

Out in the country, trombonist David Gibson’s new cd End of the Tunnel would be a late-night back porch album. Here in New York, it’s more of a fire-escape record, a gorgeously catchy mix of oldschool Memphis organ grooves along with some more straight-up jazz tracks which are just as tuneful if somewhat more tricky rhythmically. It’s party music, some of it with a slinky wee-hours feel, the rest somewhat more boisterous and adventurous. Along with Gibson, the band here is Julius Tolentino on alto sax, Jared Gold on organ and Quincy Davis on drums.

The opening track, Herbie Hancock’s Blind Man, Blind Man sets the stage with a sultry southern soul feel, Gibson playing it low and sweet, the organ stepping hard on the end of his solo to drive it home. Considerably harder-hitting, the aptly titled Wasabi is a classic Booker T. Jones style groove that makes a launching pad for three different personalities: sax soaring overhead, trombone down and dirty and the organ lighting it up at the end with some blissfully atmospheric layers. The monster hit here is Sunday Morning, a brilliantly simple ensemble piece – it’s the great lost theme to the Hairspray movie. The title track is the first of the jazz numbers, absolutely hypnotic with shapeshifting overlays of sax, organ and trombone, Gold moving methodically through an endless procession of chord changes, Gibson bringing it out of the maze and back to earth. Pensive and unresolved beneath its warmhearted hooks, A Place of Our Own never really finds itself because the drums keep it from setting down roots. Splat, by Gold, works a cool Memphis theme more expansively than any of the classic 60s soul bands did; by contrast, The In-Whim moves toward psychedelia, riding a series of rises and falls over a deceptively simple tune.

They go back to the soul music with Preachin’, Gibson slyly refusing to cede ground to anyone else until he’s almost invisible, Gold taking it up robust and warmly optimistic. The closing cut is Jackie McLean’s Blue Rondo, a good fit with its blend of jazz and soul, bustling sax and drum breaks. It’s one of the great party albums (or post-party albums) of the summer of 2011, out now on Posi-Tone.

June 13, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Organist Jared Gold Wraps up a Diverse, Intense Album

Jared Gold’s new B3 organ jazz album All Wrapped Up may not be the last thing you would expect, but it’s different. Before we get into this, let’s establish the fact that the world would be a much less enjoyable place without the B3 grooves of Lonnie Smith, Jimmy McGriff, the late Jimmy Smith and of course James Brown, who in case you didn’t know, first got an appetite for funk when playing this kind of stuff. Gold’s previous album Out of Line continued that great tradition: this is a lot more stylistically diverse. Once in awhile Gold will slip in a piano voicing; he’s also the bad cop here, bringing on the night when there’s too much sunshine. In addition to a couple of the usual grooves, the band also does a couple of swing tunes, slinks into noir mode and explores the fringes of Sao Paolo and New Orleans. Gold has a great cast behind him: Ralph Bowen on saxes, Jim Rotondi on trumpet and Quincy Davis on drums. The compositions are all originals: everyone in the band contributes.

The first cut, My Sentiments exactly works a pretty traditional shuffle groove and a triumphant horn hook, Bowen and Rotondi spinning off bright, bluesy eighth-note runs. A vivid swing tune, Get Out of My Sandbox has Bowen artfully playing off a descending progression as Davis adds rumble and crash, Rotondi getting to the point much more quickly with some scurrying downward chromatics. Gold messes with the tempo: if Keith Emerson wasn’t so hell-bent on showing off, he might have sounded something like this. Piece of Mind, by Davis, introduces a casually catchy, upbeat swing tune afloat on Bowen’s melismas, Davis varying his tread from nimble to stomping, with an intense, animated group conversation out of a pianistic Gold solo.

Midnight Snack, by Bowen shoots for nocturnal and noirish quickly – a nonchalantly crescendoing sax solo goes gritty, Rotondi’s insistent glissandos heighten the tension and Gold pushes him as he takes it up. And then the organ morphs it into a moody jazz waltz. Dark Blue, by Rotondi, brings it further down into the underworld, a slow slinky blues ballad with Taxi Driver ambience. Gold’s biting staccato righthand adds neon glimmer in the shadows; the whole band takes it up to a wailing, somewhat tongue-in-cheek crescendo.

Mama Said starts out as a jaunty New Orleans strut and ends up as a crime movie theme, Davis and Gold again working in tandem to boost the suspense, the organ eventually taking it down and then matter-of-factly back up in a vintage Quincy Jones vein. They follow with Suadades, a deceptively creepy, languid number, again with matter-of-factly impactful, ambling mysterioso ambience from the organ and drums, Bowen bringing a rare gentle balminess. They close the album going back to the funk, if not completely all the way, with Just a Suggestion, a lauching pad for Bowen’s on-and-off-kilter, weaving lines and Gold’s Memphis allusions. There’s an awful lot going on here: while it takes a lot of time to get to know this, stick with it, it’s all good. It’s out now on Posi-Tone; Gold is at the Fat Cat on May 20 at 10:30 with a quintet.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jared Gold Gets Out of Line

Remember that scene in American Splendor where Harvey opens the review copy of the album he’s just received in the mail, looks at it and then says, glumly, “Oh. Another organ-and-tenor record?” These days, organ-and-tenor records don’t grow on trees anymore, and this one’s hardly ordinary. The title of organist Jared Gold’s third and latest album Out of Line seems to be tongue-in-cheek because there’s a definite continuity here – he really sets a mood and keeps it going. From the wicked minor-key soul riff of the opening track to a barely recognizable soul-infused, Grant Green/Jimmy Smith style version of the old bubblegum pop hit La-La Means I Love You, he and the band here – Chris Cheek on tenor sax, Dave Stryker on guitar and Mark Ferber on drums – establish a warm, nocturnal, retro 60s groove and stay with it.

Preachin,’ a matter-of-factly midtempo soul/blues tune has Stryker casual and sometimes wry, followed by similarly genial bluesiness by Gold. The title track is a subtle bossa shuffle, Gold sun-speckled and summery yet hinting at unease. Their version of Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothin’ is more of a blues-tinted slink than straight-up funk, Stryker’s wah guitar chilling in the back, Gold bringing a late 60s psychedelic chordal feel to the groove. The pretty ballad It Is Well works a gentle handoff from Cheek to Gold, who’s really in an atmospheric, psychedelic mood by now. They follow that with the laid-back, swinging shuffle Down South, both Stryker and Gold lighting up the ambience with incisive, vibrant solos. The Stone Age, a jazzier take on a Bill Withers-style groove, takes it up as high as they get on this album. Stryker raises his lighter amiably, Cheek sails off into the clouds and Gold finally punches out some gritty Jimmy McGriff-style funk.

They close with an updated, funkified version of Skylark. This is a great late-night disc with an especially intimate feel (the organ’s Leslie speaker has been close-miked: you can actually hear Gold’s fingers moving nimbly across the keys). It’s out now on Posi-Tone, who seem to have a franchise on retro lately.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment