Joey DeFrancesco
HighNote Records

Owen Cordle reviews organ master Joey DeFrancesco's '40'

This album celebrates Joey DeFrancesco’s 40th birthday. Twenty-three years ago he was playing piano with Miles Davis. Shortly thereafter, he sparked a revival of jazz organ that, thankfully, continues today. While 40 has no grand design beyond DeFrancesco’s previous organ trio albums, its keep-on-keeping-on vitality infects you. The middle of the program is especially strong: the soul-music groove of “One Hundred Ways,” a fast-stepping/marching “I’ve Got a Woman” and “V & G,” an easygoing DeFrancesco original with a wah-wahing organ melody backed by guitarist Rick Zunigar’s Freddie Green-like accompaniment. DeFrancesco’s “Bluz ’n’ 3,” a jazz waltz, also scores with the organist’s Jimmy Smith roots on display.

Zunigar—new to the trio, as is drummer Ramon Banda—offers swinging solo lines and clean articulation reminiscent of George Benson (and, by lineage, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery) throughout the set. He knows how to complement DeFrancesco’s groove. Banda, a veteran of Poncho Sanchez’s band, is an interactive drummer—not too busy but making his presence felt and heard in a variety of tonal and rhythmic ways. Pay attention to his tuning on the opening “Donny’s Tune.”

A couple of times during the set, DeFrancesco cools his ebullient virtuosity long enough to perform ballads: His “Gloria” (which he sings in an expressive, low-key manner) and Lucio Dalla’s “Caruso.” The change of pace turns the scene into an intimate nightclub, and the ever-youthful DeFrancesco scores again with this birthday present.

Originally published in November 2011

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