The Back-Talk Organ Trio: Live at Le Petit Chicago, Jan. 3, 2011
Stragglers in the mating crowd probably weren't feeling better about their diminished odds by the time the band performs Jack McDuff's "Silk 'n Soul," which can't help but distract conversations. Cummings and Essoudry both get full-tilt funk solos to a frenetic rhythm riff by Swain. The high-end of the pace is heard elsewhere during the evening, with an arrangement of Marvin Gaye's "You" that makes it sound like it was born to be played by organ trio; a rapid-fire "Wade In The Water" (ditto and probably the night's busiest tune); a finger-exhausting four-minute burn on Burrell's "Suzy"; and the encore, "Time Is Tight," by Booker T. and the MGs.
Plenty of variety remains in the set, however, with slow- to mid-tempo tunes generally alternating with more lively ones. What's also evident is more stretching out of soloing approaches and backing rhythms as they settle into a comfortable groove. Cummings' compositional vision of "New Orleans" is closer to Dr. John's (with a visit by Wes Montgomery) than Jelly Roll Morton's. Ray Charles' aptly-named "Hard Times" is plodding minimalism, where Cummings and Swain wring plenty of grit from their relatively few notes. The pre-encore "Send It On," by current-day neo-soul performer D'Angelo, lingers in reflective meditation, nourishing the crowd while obviously leaving them wanting the gig to conclude in a more upbeat vein (which, as noted, does).
The set lists for the other night's performances don't vary much, until the final two appearances on January 24 and 31, where captivating and not-entirely-expected arrangements of songs such as "Afro Blue" and Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison" are found (on the January 31 gig in particular). Downloading the entire month's performances is an easy recommendation, however, especially given the trio's lack of official releases as of this writing.
Tracks: Intro; Blues For J; Green Jeans; Backtrack; As One; Oh Nelson!; Fire On The Bayou; Banter; Stolen Moments; Silk 'n Soul; Midnight Special; Latona; Suzy; Que Pasa; You; Hard Times; New Orleans; Telephone; Carrot Cake; Pee break #1; Wade In The Water; Pee break #2; Alamode; Send It On; Call for encore; Time Is Tight.
Personnel: Don Cummings: organ; Chris Swain: guitar; Mike Essoudry: drums.