Whaling City Sound
In this reissue of a 1997 release, Boston guitarist John Stein pays tribute to guitar great Grant Green with a collection of predominantly groove-oriented originals that recall the classic Blue Note organ quartet sound captured in those early ’60s studio dates by engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Organist Ken Clark, a gifted player in this genre, plays Big John Patton to Stein’s Green on greasy fare like “Booga Lou” (an homage to “Alligator Boogaloo” creator Lou Donaldson), the title track (a shuffle blues in the vein of Jimmy Smith’s “Back at the Chicken Shack”), “Jack’s Back” (reminiscent of Jack McDuff’s uptempo B3 anthem “Rock Candy”) and “Hotcakes” (featuring some soulful flute work by special guest David “Fathead” Newman). Newman lends his robust, smoky tenor sax to Stein’s gorgeous ballad “Our Love Will See Us Through” and switches to alto for a Johnny Hodges-inspired reading of Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing ’Til You Hear From Me.”
Elsewhere, the guitarist shows tasteful restraint on the Latin-flavored ballad “Culebra” and the haunting, minor-key “Sultry,” then flaunts some impressive fleet-fingered single note facility on the uptempo burner “Greyhound,” fueled by drummer Dave Hurst’s insistently swinging ride cymbal pulse in perfect sync with organist Clark’s nimble pedal bass work on the B3. Their easy-swinging chemistry also characterizes the relaxed groove on Stein’s “Digits,” which the composer explains was inspired by the early collaborations between guitar great Wes Montgomery and organist Melvin Rhyne. Two bonus tracks that were not on the original 1997 release, an earthy walking blues entitled “Be Ooo Ba” and a midtempo swinging rendition of the standard “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” were culled from a live trio performance on radio station WGBH in Boston. Stein has a genuine understanding of the B3 genre, and that affinity radiates on each track of this exceptional outing.