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Joey DeFrancesco: The Champ

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By now, organist Joey DeFrancesco should have secured his place among the masters of the B-3. This latest recording should confirm that status.

The Champ is billed as a tribute to Jimmy Smith. As such, DeFrancesco utilizes Smith’s early classic combo set-up, simply organ-guitar-drums, with Randy Johnston and one-time Smith associate Billy Hart. Furthermore, the program consists of titles culled from Jimmy Smith’s popular hits.

The adulatory nature of the tribute album ends there, however. DeFrancesco builds upon Smith’s repertory to present a burning session that pulsates in its own right, and Joey marks his own stamp on these tunes rather than merely copying Jimmy’s style.

There are later pieces such as “Walk on the Wild Side” and “The Cat”, and “OGD (The Road Song)” to remind us of Jimmy and Wes, plus the usual standard songs that receive a mighty workout in the organ-guitar trio format.

DeFrancesco puts in a virtuoso performance here, with the foot-tapping grit that exemplifies the best of the Hammond organ, with a touch of elegance and soul.