Earlier, I reviewed an album by Ron Jackson called Flubby Dubby and had suggested that as good as the musicians were, each of the people in the group on that album could have been the leader and still would not change how good those songs were. The next album I played was one by Roni Music called Burning Music (Roni Music) and I thought “wow, the guitar work sounds a bit like the album I just played. I looked at the photo of the group and wondered “he looks a bit like the guy on the CD”. Well damn, they’re one and the same: the Roni in question is Ron Jackson.
This album is a bit different than Flubby Dubby in that it’s a bit more airy and due to the nature of some of the songs, a bit more tropical nature. It’s not light or “smooth jazz”, but the approach is not that of hard bop or boogaloo, but more along the lines of that ECM vibe of the mid to late 70’s. He is joined by Matsuura Hiroyuki on drums and Norbert Marius on bass, and together they play with their hearts on their sleeves. All but two tracks are originals, with “Killer Joe” and “So What” being interpreted incredibly well by these gentlemen.
There’s just some fine musicianship here, and I’d want to see them in a live setting if I didn’t live so far from a decent jazz venue.
With some jazz albums, you can get a feel for who is the leader but for me, things are at their best when you have to look at the liner notes and go “oh wait, he’s just one of the guys in the leader’s band.”
Flubby Dubby is the new album by guitarist Ron Jackson, but he also has two standouts working with him on this album: organist Kyle Koeler and drummer Otis Brown III, so you can listen to it as an incredible jazz guitar album, one built around the power of the organ, or one where the drummer allows his two bandmates on the voyage to take their musical mission to the finish line. In other words, each of these guys could’ve had top billing and it still would’ve showed how great this album is. All of the songs were recorded live in West Orange, New Jersey at Cecil’s Jazz Club, but you would never know it, at least until you hear the applause hits at the end. This live recording was recorded, mixed and mastered beautifully, definitely what a quality live recording should song like.
As for songs, a lot of good originals on here including “The Look Of You”, “A Calypso Party”, and “Get In The COuntry’, but listeners will like the choice of covers in the form of “The Long And Winding Road”, “Stars Fell On Alabama”, and “Love Ballad”, written by Skip Scarborough and made famous by L.T.D.. Together, the songs and musicians know very well what they’re doing, how to do it, and why, and you don’t need an answer. Just listen and forget what Flubby Dubby may or may not mean. Just listen to some damn good jazz centered around the guitarist/organist/drummer.
It’s not often that I talk about jazz album cover artwork or photos, because while the artwork can be cool, the photos are often boring. However, the gatefold for Greg Lewis‘ Organ Monk has to be mentioned right off the top. It’s a photo of Lewis sitting on a chair with nothing but blue jeans on while his wife, in the nude, rides him. In front of them, their baby sleeping in a baby rocker. It’s funny, but it’s also honest and open, and as I’m playing the album staring at the photo, it starts to make sense.
Organ Monk could very well be a play in words for Lewis, but it’s also a way to share his love of the Hammond B-3 organ, and this guy tears it up like some of the best have in jazz’s history. “Criss Cross” has him riding the keys and just demolishing the instrument in a freeform manner, but the songs around it having him taking care of business, perhaps as he is doing in the gatefold cover. I’m a huge fan of the sound of the B-3, and when he creates sounds that to me sounds like he’s “digging” (perhaps as he is doing in the gatefold cover), I’m smiling from ear to ear. He plays along with drummer Cindy Blackman and guitarist Ron Jackson, and knowing this gives me a Cheshire grin. It’s great to hear Jackson and Lewis go back and forth, trading licks in “Light Blue” as Blackman helps maintain the sound in the way she does so in a grand (but not grandiose) fashion.
There’s a certain coolness to the B-3 that is immediate once you hear it, but team that up with a brilliant drummer and guitarist and it’s a formula for trouble, in a good way. I go through a lot of jazz albums on a regular basis but when you have one so well executed, it makes me want to hike up a mountain (I’d pass out but I would make it) and yell out “GET THIS ORGAN MONK RIGHT NOW!!!” As you hear these fifteen songs, you then look at that gatefold cover and say “damn, this man has nothing to be ashamed of.” Ride on.