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Joey DeFrancesco: 40

Owen Cordle reviews organ master Joey DeFrancesco's '40'

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This album celebrates Joey DeFrancesco’s 40th birthday. Twenty-three years ago he was playing piano with Miles Davis. Shortly thereafter, he sparked a revival of jazz organ that, thankfully, continues today. While 40 has no grand design beyond DeFrancesco’s previous organ trio albums, its keep-on-keeping-on vitality infects you. The middle of the program is especially strong: the soul-music groove of “One Hundred Ways,” a fast-stepping/marching “I’ve Got a Woman” and “V & G,” an easygoing DeFrancesco original with a wah-wahing organ melody backed by guitarist Rick Zunigar’s Freddie Green-like accompaniment. DeFrancesco’s “Bluz ‘n’ 3,” a jazz waltz, also scores with the organist’s Jimmy Smith roots on display.

Zunigar-new to the trio, as is drummer Ramon Banda-offers swinging solo lines and clean articulation reminiscent of George Benson (and, by lineage, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery) throughout the set. He knows how to complement DeFrancesco’s groove. Banda, a veteran of Poncho Sanchez’s band, is an interactive drummer-not too busy but making his presence felt and heard in a variety of tonal and rhythmic ways. Pay attention to his tuning on the opening “Donny’s Tune.”

A couple of times during the set, DeFrancesco cools his ebullient virtuosity long enough to perform ballads: His “Gloria” (which he sings in an expressive, low-key manner) and Lucio Dalla’s “Caruso.” The change of pace turns the scene into an intimate nightclub, and the ever-youthful DeFrancesco scores again with this birthday present.

Originally Published