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Barbara Dennerlein: Outhipped

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Barbara Dennerlein has been the most adventurous Hammond B-3 organ stylist of the last 10 years. Her fondness for funk rhythms may rile purists who cut their teeth on a greasier mode of B-3 playing back in the golden years of organ lounges. But she’s brimming with ideas, loaded down with chops and is not afraid to experiment with the form.

Dennerlein has always surrounded herself with great talent. This time out her ensemble features such ringers as trombonist Ray Anderson, saxophonists Craig Handy and Antonio Hart, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, bassist James Genus, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, who contributes a particularly gorgeous flugelhorn solo on her haunting ballad “Sweet Poison.”

Watts slams with rocky authority on the urgent title track while guitarist Mitch Watkins adds fuel to the fire with a fusiony Tommy Bolin-esque guitar solo. A spacious “Frog Dance” is Barbara’s answer to “All Blues” while her second line slant on “Satisfaction” will surprise Rolling Stones fans. “Bloody Mary” is straight James Brown funk with Watts playing funky drummer to Antonio Hart’s Maceo Parker while the challenging five-part suite “Mabuse” drifts well outside the boundaries of B-3 land. She dips into a more traditional bag on the uptempo burner “Black and White” and on two slow blues numbers, “Odd Blues” and “Farewell to Old Friends.”

Throughout this scintillating set, Dennerlein displays a serious command of the instrument in her right hand agility, her remarkable bass footpedal work and her tonal manipulations. She may not “outhip” the likes of Dr. Lonnie Smith and Larry Young, but she sure can play.