Ed Cherry: The Spirits Speak

Guitarist Ed Cherry heads this organ project, which features B-3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, drummer Nasheet Waits and tenorman Joe Ford. Vocalist Laird Jackson lends her voice to two tracks. An expressive instrumentalist, Cherry has a hip, melodic approach that is a refreshing contrast to guitarists who frequently resort to playing “finger music,” the execution of rapid streams of notes that serve no musical purpose other than to fill space. Especially check out his playing on “Little Girl, Big Girl” and “Joe’s Thing,” where Cherry more than gets the job done with great phrasing, taste and overall feel. But he can also get crazy, witnessed by his sonic explorations on “Woo!/Sharrock,” a paean to the late great guitar adventurer Sonny Sharrock that moves from free soundscape to driving groove. Throughout, Lonnie Smith does exemplary jobs both in a supporting capacity and as a soloist. Joe Ford blows beautifully (check out his funky solo on “Joe’s Thing”) and Jackson’s classy, lush voice steals the show on Horace Silver’s “Peace,” which also features a nice nylon-string solo by Cherry.

In short, this album covers a lot of ground, but never wanders away from Cherry’s artistic vision. But more than just a showcase for his fine guitar work, this is a damn fine jazz outing, period.