Belles of the B3: Scott, Tsuruga & Dennerlein
During the late '50s, Jimmy Smith and others, using the Hammond B3 organ in trio format, developed a brand of bluesy soul-jazz that was deliciously intimate yet sonically expansive. These three international belles of the B3 individually broaden the classic trio in ways that maintain their instrument's centrality while evolving the genre.
Born in Newark, NJ where she learned to play in her father's church, for the last four decades Rhoda Scott has lived in Paris, but her roots are much in evidence on From C to Shining C. The twin tenors of Plas Johnson and Red Holloway gel, playing off each other and Scott's organ to add a lot of swing to Scott's approach. Holloway is no stranger to the B3 and played on some classic sides with Brother Jack McDuff. He also has an uncanny ability to bring it to another level with a fellow saxman as he did for many years with Sonny Stitt. Not that much of that is needed in the case of Plas Johnson whose round tone on Henry Mancini's "Theme from the Pink Panther is arguably the most heard sax line of all time. Both these players bring plenty of R&B experience to make the session cook. Guitarist Carl Lockett deserves special mention as his Chicago Blues-style guitar is reminiscent of Michael Bloomfield as he augments and solos in a gorgeously clean and precise manner. Drummer Lucien Dobat is an integral part of Scott's style that has her barefootin' across the pedals to serve as a true bassist, freeing her up to comp and solo these originals and standards into a gospel-inspired delight.
Among these three releases, the truest to the Smith tradition is from relative newcomer Akiko Tsuruga. Originally from Japan, she has her own trio that includes guitarist Eric Johnson and drummer Vince Ector. Tsuruga is also a sideperson with drummer/vocalist Grady Tate and in both these guises has been proffering an especially delectable B3 sound that is light on the grease but heavy on the funk. For Sweet and Funky, conguero/percussionist Wilson "Chembo Corniel adds just a touch of Latin spice to this tight mix on tunes like the breezily swinging "Sweet and Lovely while Johnson's guitar touch evinces purity, turning B3 standard "Stormy Weather into a dreamy blues. The quartet shines on well-known tunes like "Saving All My Love For You and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams where smooth Latin percussion meets B3 trio for a musical concoction that goes down easy. Although an especially sugary "Where is the Love may be too sweet for some, there is plenty of funk throughout, especially on the originals "Mushi-Mushi and "Booga-Lou .
German organist Barbara Dennerlein has had a distinguished career successfully taking her B3 to places where it was previously unwelcome. Her compositions and style have braved a path for her instrument that doesn't follow the norm. As such, Change of Pace is much more than its title implies and is as much kin to Gershwin as it is to organist Keith Emerson's more adventurous works with The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. That said, Dennerlein's awesome technique and compositional skills do break new musical ground as she exquisitely blends her B3 trio, which includes saxophonist Peter Lehel and drummer/percussionist Daniel Messina, into the State Philharmonic Orchestra of Rhineland-Palatinate conducted by Bernd Ruf. The resultant sound, due in some part to her expert use of synthesizers, thrills as only a musical aggregation of this magnitude could. The strings are glorious, the brass voicings superb and the winds are joyous as Dennerlein's organ meets the philharmonic as equal partner. Recorded live, five extended compositions artfully combine classical, jazz and rock using intricate tempos, quick changes, mood shifts and more than a hint of exoticism to present rhapsodic stylistic wholes. This is a major release by one of the B3's foremost proponents.
Tracks and Personnel
From C to Shining C
Tracks: Next Time You See Me; Blues Alley; Monday Monday; Oh Danny Boy/Lift Every Voice; Waitin' For The Plane; From C to Shining C; Reveries; Tico Tico; Hit The Road Jack.
Personnel: Rhoda Scott: Hammond B3 organ; Plas Johnson: tenor saxophone; Red Holloway: tenor saxophone; Carl Lockett: guitar; Lucien Dobat: drums.
Sweet and Funky
Tracks: Meanie Queenie; DLG; Sweet and Lovely; Stormy Weather; Saving All My Love For You; Where is the Love; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Mushi- Mushi; Booga Lou; Broadway.
Personnel: Akiko Tsuruga: Hammond B3 Organ; Eric Johnson: guitar; Vince Ector: drums; Wilson "Chembo" Corniel: percussion.
Change of Pace
Tracks: Longing; A Summer Day; Pendel der Zeit; Change Of Pace; The Long Way Blues.
Personnel: Barbara Dennerlein: Hammond B3 Organ, footpedals, synthesizers; Peter Lehel: tenor and soprano saxophone; Donald Messina: drums, percussion; Bernd Ruf: conductor Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.