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December 2008

Joey DeFrancesco
Joey D!
HighNote Records

To anyone who thinks that organist Joey DeFrancesco has run out of interesting ideas for album titles, it may be suggested that in calling his return to HighNote Records Joey D! he may not be referring entirely to himself. The “D” may well refer to Diversi, the brand of organ he plays, since he has invested in the company and become its spokesman. As described in Michael G. Nastos’ liner notes, Diversi’s instruments seem less like organs than like synthesizers made to sound like organs. They are able to “copy” or “clone” the sound of “someone’s vintage tone wheel console organ,” Nastos explains, adding that “the instrument DeFrancesco plays acts and sounds like an organ, if possible with a richer, deeper tone, especially in the bass foot pedals.” This last point is borne out on the album, which features only DeFrancesco, tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon and drummer Byron Landham, but which most listeners would suppose also includes a bass player, since a realistic double-bass sound, generated by DeFrancesco’s feet, is heard throughout.

Leaving aside the technological aspects, Joey D! comes off as a casual small-ensemble blowing session that spotlights Weldon, who takes the first solos after the group plays the heads of the familiar tunes, then DeFrancesco. (Landham gets a couple of solos in the opener, Miles Davis’ “Dig,” and the closer, Gene Ammons’ “Blues Up and Down.”) Even on the nominally uptempo tunes “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Come Dance with Me” (which, like “Nancy [With the Laughing Face],” could have appeared on 2004’s Joey DeFrancesco Plays Sinatra His Way), the group stays in a laidback mood, except for the occasional flourish. Yet the playing is consistently effective, no matter what instrument is being used.

Originally published in December 2008
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