116th & Park
Guitarist Greg Skaff is one of those musician’s musicians who can effortlessly do whatever the situation calls for without breaking a sweat. On this hard-bop-centric session inspired by East Harlem, he cuts loose with a first-rate trio featuring (mostly) Pat Bianchi on Hammond B3 organ and Ralph Peterson Jr. on drums. The medium-tempo title track, a Skaff original, simply cooks, leading off with a blistering organ solo parried by a sequence of puckish riffs by Skaff. Thelonious Monk’s “Bye-Ya” is a natural choice for this orchestration, handled as a funk tune that allows the band to demonstrate their prodigious chops.
But there’s more here than B3 grease. “Tropicalia,” a breezy bossa Skaff performs with bassist Paul Nowinski and drummer Mauro Refosco, expands the disc’s ensemble feels beyond bop and B3 groove. (Another artful Latin highlight: Skaff’s “Serenade to a Surdo.”) Ellington’s “Come Sunday” arrives near the close of the album and offers some requisite balladic simmer.