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Organissimo: B3tles (Big O)

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Organissimo: "B3tles"
Organissimo: “B3tles”

This isn’t the first jazz tribute to the Beatles, and it won’t be the last, but it is one of the best. Organissimo—the trio of organist Jim Alfredson, drummer Randy Marsh and guitarist Lawrence Barris (replacing original member Joe Gloss)—uses a dozen Beatles songs as vehicles for improvisation, and they succeed in two areas where other Beatles tributes have faltered: They take a different stylistic approach with each song, and they make their rearrangements of familiar earworms sound natural.

Played by an organ trio, B3tles falls under the general umbrella of soul-jazz. But there are fluctuations within. A samba rhythm is laid beneath “And I Love Her,” which opens with a sublime guitar solo by the band’s newest member. “Taxman” gets a sly 7/8 reworking, and you don’t even realize it until you start counting beats; the ingenious 5/4 changeup of “All You Need Is Love” is more obvious, with its jerky rhythm. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sounds like something out of a noir thriller. “Dear Prudence” is darn close to prog-rock; imagine Yes reimagining it. Then picture the Meters doing “Come Together,” because that kind of hot funk follows.

Alfredson’s work is sophisticated and soulful—big and rich here, sparse and laidback there. He doesn’t pull out any of the clichés from the B-3 bag of tricks (the two-key flutter, the two-handed glissando, the single note sustained for eight bars). That’s not to say he won’t go full-on ’60s soul-jazz—he does exactly that on a vigorous “Can’t Buy Me Love,” complete with swirling Leslie. But he’s not always on the Hammond, also playing Wurlitzer electric piano and, on the mind-trip of a closer, synth and effects pedals. “Within You Without You” is radically spacey, like something out of a sci-fi movie, with Bill Vits aiding on percussion and Mike List playing tabla. The Beatles would have approved.

Originally Published