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Gary Versace: Reminiscence

Until you get to the funky, boogaloo-inflected third track, “Thelonious” (yes, the Monk tune), you might not even realize this is an organ-trio date, in the style of Jimmy Smith’s classic Blue Note sessions. Organist Gary Versace’s is a far cry from the driving, muscular approach to the Hammond B3 of Smith and his fellow soul-jazz organists of that era. For one thing, his concept is more group-oriented; this album is as much a showcase for the guitar of Vic Juris as for the B3. It’s also a showcase for versatility (notable in drummer Adam Nussbaum’s wide stylistic range) and for the compositions of modern jazz pianists, eight of whom are represented, plus Versace’s two originals, both dedications to others: “For Bill” (Evans) and “For McCoy” (Tyner).

Versace’s choice of repertoire is both challenging and sophisticated-no riff tunes or down-home blues here-and the trio is necessarily deft and nimble. In tunes like Roland Hanna’s lovely “Let Me Try,” Cedar Walton’s “Hindsight” and Bud Powell’s “Webb City,” there’s a light, airy feel to the trio, completely belying heavyweight ideas of the organ in jazz. And for truly frothy, bebop-styled friskiness, Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies” offers up a breezy chase between guitar and organ as the exchanges get closer and shorter. There are nods to a more robust organ-trio sound too, like “Thelonious” with its calliope-like organ solo and “For McCoy,” a mix of riffs and Tyner-esque arpeggio waves, plus Juris’ use of tremolo. But Versace also takes the trio in a more out, spacey direction on the impressionistic, vaporish “Prism” by Keith Jarrett and Carla Bley’s “Floater,” where the sonic and dynamic possibilities of the organ and guitar are exploited.

Originally Published