Saturday, January 26, 2013

Joey DeFrancesco: Wonderful! Wonderful!

HighNote Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Wonderful! Wonderful!

Hammond B3 organ fans know Joey DeFrancesco; he has played that beast for years. His father, “Papa” John DeFrancesco, was a fine jazz organist in his own right; at the age of 5, little Joey was playing Jimmy Smith songs note for note. Joey would sit in during his father’s gigs until he was 10; he then began to play with other great bands in Philadelphia headed by artists such as Hank Mobley and “Philly” Joe Jones. Joey released his first album when he was only 17. 

You name the artist or group; DeFrancesco probably has played with them. Miles Davis was perhaps the most famous; he asked DeFrancesco to tour with him when the organist was just 17. During that period, DeFrancesco also began to play the trumpet, which he still does today. 

Two of DeFrancesco’s albums have been nominated for Grammy Awards, and he was named Downbeat’s Organ Player of the Year five times running. 

DeFrancesco is a “burner”: He loves to play, and he shows it. He particularly enjoys up-tempo meters, and he’s all over the keyboard at any tempo. 

This release presents him with his trio — his favorite setting — and he’s joined by guitarist Larry Coryell and drummer Jimmy Cobb. You’ll immediately notice that DeFrancesco’s foot-pedal technique, blended with Coryell’s guitar, combines so nicely that you’ll swear a bassist is playing with the group. 

DeFrancesco composed one of these eight tracks — “JLJ Blues” — and the rest are by other artists. The most interesting is a version of that famous old Western song, “Wagon Wheels.” Now, that’s a tune I’ve never heard in a jazz mode, and it comes out swinging! 

Let’s face it, DeFrancesco is a lot of fun!

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