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Gene Ludwig Trio with the Bill Warfield Big Band: Duff’s Blues: Live From the Zoellner Arts Center

It’s too bad the Hammond B3 organ isn’t showcased more often with a big band. It’s a terrific combine producing a big, deep, meaty sound. Case in point: this CD, putting together veteran B3 organist Gene Ludwig, who got his start four decades ago in Pittsburgh, and Big Apple trumpeter Bill Warfield’s Big Band. Ludwig’s trio provides guitarist Bob DeVos and drummer Rudy Petschauer, while Warfield provides arrangements and fields the brass, reeds and bassist Bob Bowen.

This isn’t one of those either/or situations where big band or organ trio play; there’s a lot of interaction between the two, with Warfield providing ensemble riffs, shout choruses, solos and composed interludes to keep the big-band feel alive even during long solos and tracks. Ludwig’s “Duff’s Blues” kicks things off with a dollop of soul jazz: a B3 lead segues into churning big band and organ, Joe Wilder blows a zesty trumpet solo, Tim Sessions offers brash trombone, and the band fades to choruses of B3 licks traded with guitar (catch the “Killer Joe” allusions) before a drum-break finale.

The amazing Wilder (an octogenarian since 2002) brings his burnished tone and articulate ideas to a long solo on Lee Morgan’s Latin-with-4/4 bridge “Totem Pole,” while Warfield takes the trumpet solo on Woody Shaw’s “The Organ Grinder.” Ludwig, who favors the resonant middle register of the B3 and avoids the repetitive clichés of soul organ, is a robust presence throughout the CD as both soloist and ensemble fattener. Warfield’s arrangements swing and/or groove with exhilarating authority, from a classic take on “Dolphin Dance” to the funky percolation of his own “Dance of the Coal Cars.” The tenor saxophones of Dave Riekenberg and Glenn Cashman, who also arranged his own rippling, jumpy “The Circuit,” fit right in the brawny B3 combo tradition, and it’s good to hear such yeomen in the New York big-band trenches as baritone saxophonist Ed Xiques and bass trombonist Sam Burtis stretch out on solos.

Originally Published