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Tim Warfield: One for Shirley

Tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield may think of himself as a hard-bop man, but he has a soft spot for the ladies, specifically, the women of the Hammond B3 organ. For Warfield’s fifth album, that means Shirley Scott. The late Scott (she passed in 2002) was part of Philadelphia’s fine heritage of organists, which also included Trudy Pitts, Charles Earland and Jimmy Smith. But the woman whose Prestige label output is still the instrument’s rarest treasure (somebody get all of Scott’s albums back in print!) was as attuned to the inspirational melodies of goodly gospel and muddy blues in her output as she was bebop’s dense harmonies.

In that respect, Warfield’s tribute to Scott is perfect. Warfield plays it coolly and complexly on his own composition “Lullaby for Nijee.” With longtime trumpeter Terell Stafford by his side, each player slips and slides with grace and ease through the other’s fluid honks and toots. Underneath it all, B3 organist Pat Bianchi haunts each line of melody with the warmth of the Hammond’s whirr. It’s not gospel, but it’s holy. The same can be said when Warfield and Bianchi ooze ever so cautiously through the slow mix of traditional hymn and Duke Pearson melody that is “Cristo Redentor-Calvary.”

But never let it be said that they don’t have fun to boot. Warfield, Bianchi, Stafford and co. turn Sonny Bono’s peppy “The Beat Goes On” into an epic (nearly 12-minutes-long) groovy blues romp worthy of its own dance mix. And for Scott’s “Oasis,” everyone involved takes to the Arabian-inspired melody as if splashing in sand on a sunny day.

Originally Published