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Aaron Stroessner Quartet: Haymarket Station (Noray Eel)

A review of the guitarist-led group's debut album

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Aaron Stroessner Quartet, Haymarket Station
The cover of Haymarket Station by the Aaron Stroessner Quartet

A cure for the drudgery of commuting? Maybe not. But a visit to Haymarket Station is bound to provide welcome diversion for fans of jazz organ combos—a sweet spot, as it happens, for guitarist Aaron Stroessner. There’s no mistaking the deep affection he holds for the Hammond-powered subgenre, but that alone scarcely accounts for the album’s vitality, soulfulness and, perhaps most of all, its quirky charm. More than anything else, the session’s appeal derives from Stroessner’s thoroughly engaging themes and his distinct flair for creating colorful mood shifts that never fail to hit the mark. (Not coincidentally, he penned each of the 10 tunes here.)

There are resonating blues streaks, of course, but there’s plenty more: boppish jaunts and chromatic luster; cleverly tweaked samba and reggae grooves; noir-esque tints and vibrant soul riffs; Tele twang, pedal steel-like interludes, and shimmering balladry. What you won’t find is Stroessner flexing his fingers or deploying pedal effects merely for the sake of it. Though he varies his attack throughout the album, he’s an economical player, keeping his motifs compact enough that they can fit in just one or two fingering positions. Check out, for example, the slinky shuffle “Ocho Rios,” which sounds as if it were tailored for an episode of Better Call Saul, or the delightfully breezy “Blue Shoe Samba.” All the while, organist Kevin Lloyd is a worthy foil and frequent sparkplug, especially during the funk/Caribbean excursions vigorously driven and accented by drummer Andrew Wray and bassist Mitchell Benson.

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Mike Joyce

A former editor of JazzTimes, Mike Joyce has written extensively on jazz, blues, country, and pop music for The Washington Post, Maryland and Washington, D.C. public television stations, and other outlets.