Carl Fischer & Organic Groove Ensemble: Renaissance Man (2004)
Every musicianespecially one who leadshas a game plan, and we can't simply dismiss it out of hand. We must listen and assess the plan on its merits. Trumpeter Carl Fischer, a mainstay in Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau ensemble, has spent several years putting together a group of his own, the latest version of which is represented on this album, which began life as a four-tune demo recording to scare up gigs before expanding into a well-rounded snapshot of the five-member Organic Groove Ensemble's prowess. "The meaning of 'organic' in the band's name comes from the prominence of the Hammond B3 organ [expertly played by Ferguson band mate Ron Oswanski] in the music," Fischer writes, "and 'groove' stands for some funky rhythms that [lie] in the pocket."
And what Fischer asserts is for the most part what transpiresa funky, free-wheeling session of original compositions by Fischer, Jeff Barone, Jimmy Heath and G. Whitty that swings nicely along in its groovy way and encompsses respectable solos by Fischer, Oswanski and the others (tenor saxophonist John Scarpulla, guitarist Tom Guarna, drummer Brian Wolfe). Fischer is an accomplished trumpeter with a crystalline tone who reaches on occasion for the stratosphere once ruled by his irrepressible employer, Mr. Ferguson. Unlike Maynard, he doesn't overshadow his teammates but gives them ample room to have their say. Oswanski, a superb accompanist and able improviser, is quick to take advantage, as are Guarna and Scarpulla.
The groove, as noted, is basically funky, and Wolfe does an excellent job in keeping it there, as do Oswanski and Guarna, while Fischer glides easily above their rhythmic patterns, whether on trumpet or flugelhorn, which he uses on "Don't Play Games" and "No Laughing Matter." The brief finale, "Outtakes," shows how the group bravely "faces the music" before putting anything on tape (hence the subtitle, "Soap Opera/Three Clams in Two Bars").
If funk is your bag, you'll no doubt warm quickly to the Organic Groove Ensemble. Even though it's not this reviewer's music of choice, I must concede that Fischer's group is wholly committed to making it sound as handsome and pleasing as possible, and that's the sort of game plan anyone should applaud.
Track Listing: Renaissance Man; Hangin' with Nat; Don't Play Games; Ginger Bread Boy; No Laughing Matter; Bayview Ave Blues; What I Love Most; Crazy Talk; Duban's Groove; Outtakes (55:28).
Personnel: Carl Fischer, trumpet, flugelhorn; John Scarpulla, tenor saxophone; Ron Oswanski, organ; Tom Guarna, guitar; Brian Wolfe, drums.