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Joey DeFrancesco: One for Rudy

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“Rudy” is, of course, legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, for whom Joey DeFrancesco feels a certain affinity. The organist recorded his second album at Van Gelder’s famous Englewood Cliffs, N.J., studio in 1990 and another album there eight years later. Now comes this tribute, with DeFrancesco’s trio reprising several tunes originally recorded by Van Gelder. One of the most famous is tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons’ version of “Canadian Sunset,” recorded in 1960 for his Boss Tenor album. Here, DeFrancesco, guitarist Steve Cotter and drummer Ramon Banda employ the loping beat of the original, with the organist and guitarist soloing warmly with boppish eighth-note lines. Then there’s “Monk’s Dream,” which DeFrancesco recalls from organist Larry Young’s Unity album. DeFrancesco solos using Monk-like harmonic intervals and rhythmic swirls and then trades phrases with Banda.

Two emotionally powerful ballad performances, “Goodbye” and “Stardust,” contrast the prevailing emphasis on hard bop. For breakneck bop chops, DeFrancesco chooses “After You’ve Gone” and Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring”; Cotter wisely cooks with a lower flame on these and proves very effective. (Cotter and Banda are essentially DeFrancesco’s “B” team, periodically subbing on gigs for regulars Paul Bollenback and Byron Landham. On this album, they play like top-billed veterans.)

By focusing on Van Gelder’s work, DeFrancesco gives this album a worthy theme and artful purpose.

Originally Published