Chemistry is one of the most important characteristics of a successful jazz ensemble. This one has little. So little, in fact, that it seems as though guitarist John Hart, organist Adam Scone and drummer Rudy Albin Petschauer had rarely played together before recording Leading the British Invasion. (Hart and Petschauer did collaborate in organist Jack McDuff’s group.) And then you read the liner notes and discover that the trio was assembled specifically “to interpret these songs.”
Each of the 11 tunes on this album is associated with a female British singer, from “I Only Want to Be With You” (Dusty Springfield) to “Rehab” (Amy Winehouse) and “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele). They’re all OK, but there’s nothing special about these versions. Beyond selling records, a point is hard to find. Why do this if you don’t have something interesting to say? Not one solo—on organ, guitar or drums—stands out. Some of the interpretations are innovative—treating Sade’s “Smooth Operator” as a shuffle is certainly a different approach—but there’s little beyond the mere idea to recommend it. The trio’s treatment of Lorde’s “Royals” is quite awful, in fact—heavy rock with zero personality, no better than what a garage band could pull off. And Hart so dominates most of this album that Scone and Petschauer feel less like partners in a trio than hired guns for a one-off gimmick.