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Joey DeFrancesco: Wonderful! Wonderful!

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One-time Hammond organ prodigy Joey DeFrancesco, now a well-seasoned 41-year-old, has recorded with a number of great jazz guitarists, including his longtime collaborator Paul Bollenback and six-string icons John McLaughlin and Pat Martino. On Wonderful! Wonderful!, his 30th recording overall as a leader and 10th for HighNote, he is joined by guitar great Larry Coryell and jazz drumming icon Jimmy Cobb. It’s an inspired pairing with results ranging from sublime to positively pyrotechnic.

The title track is a blazing take on a mellow pop song from 1957 by Johnny Mathis. DeFrancesco’s burning solo here is imbued with hard-boppish swagger, as Coryell comps sparingly and pianistically and Cobb keeps insistent, unerring swing time on the ride cymbal. Coryell’s solo is typically fleet-fingered, though his tone is uncharacteristically warm and dark in a Wes Montgomery vein rather than the more piercing semi-hollow tones he has exhibited on his own recent recordings. The spry, 83-year-old master drummer exchanges rapid-fire eights with his bandmates near the end of this exhilarating opener. Coryell’s solo on Benny Golson’s “Five Spot After Dark” is as economical as DeFrancesco’s is audacious. The ease with which the B3 maven executes dazzling double-timed passages on the keys shows why he is considered by many to be the best B3 player on the planet today. Cobb also contributes an unaccompanied drum solo that marries hipness to an inherent sense of melodicism.

Coryell’s Texas roots surface on a rendition of “Wagon Wheels,” a tune famously covered by Sonny Rollins on his 1957 album Way Out West. His deft blending of country and jazz here recalls similar efforts 50 years ago by pioneering Nashville guitarist Hank Garland. A tasty rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” is played with heart and soul by DeFrancesco, while he unleashes his mondo chops on Coryell’s modal waltz-time vehicle “Joey D.” The melancholy ballad “Old Folks” finds DeFrancesco switching to Miles-inspired muted trumpet and Cobb underscoring with gentle brushwork as Coryell offers gorgeous chording on an acoustic guitar. The copasetic trio closes on an upbeat note with a loose shuffle-swing jam, “JLJ Blues,” named for each of the stellar participants.

Originally Published