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Joey DeFrancesco: Plays Sinatra His Way

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There isn’t the slightest bit of complication when it comes to Joey DeFrancesco. The guy is a genuine “meat and potatoes jazz-blues organist” (the phrase Joey used in these same pages last September to describe his dad, Papa John DeFrancesco), whose only raison d’etre is to swing his Philly-forged fanny off.

The fact that he does it using tunes associated with Ol’ Blue Eyes is a nice touch on a personal level, but musically it’s as valid as homage to John Philip Sousa. Face it: If DeFrancesco were to play “Stars and Stripes Forever,” it would groove just as meaningfully as “I Get a Kick Out of You” or “Pennies From Heaven.” The latter tune is a good opportunity to hear how DeFrancesco structures many of his uptempo solos: ideas build on each other, a carefully controlled crescendo as notes tend to cascade with a virtual flood of bop-flavored, single-note runs that usually lead to chordal jabs, which always lead to a perfectly timed climax-in this case the out chorus taken by tenor saxophonist Houston Person. The others contributing to the momentum are guitarist Melvin Sparks and drummer Byron Landham. Not to be overlooked, of course, are DeFrancesco’s feet, providing the constant bass line on the B3.

Other nuances include the interplay between Person and DeFrancesco. It is especially poignant in “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” in the way the organist comps behind the tenor sax. It’s so essential to respect each other’s turf in a tenor and organ combo. Having said that, pay attention to “Witchcraft,” the only Person-less track. DeFrancesco and his rhythm section strike up a precious intimacy, particularly in the first couple of choruses where the organist’s right hand and Landham’s brushes prove that jazz can swing quietly and have it sneak up on you.