Every once and a while, two CDs come in for review that are just meant to be together, and this is one of those times. The two organist's heard on these two CDs represent far different approaches to playing the instrument, and the music itself holds up well in each case. In fact, they are both hot.
First, the City Rhythm Orchestra from Limehouse Records. This CD is a real treat, since it contains not only the regular CD, but also a full, 5.1 surround sound DVD of a live concert with this big band. And any jazz lover has got to love these tunes: Senior Blues, Moanin', The Cat, One Mint Julip, and for Jimmy Smith fans, Walk on the Wild Side, plus others. The CD is a studio recording at over 70 minutes, while the live show is just over an hour. It's interesting to actually see the concert evolve, and Joey directing the band from behind the mighty Hammond B 3 organ. It also evolves over time, starting before dusk in the Camden, NJ harbor, and progressively getting darker, showing the lights of the ships and the Philadelphia skyline behind. Both dates are well recorded, and offers great solos from most members of the Band. (The solos are credited on the CD, which is a great help for DJs and those who want to know who's playing what!). The City Rhythm Orchestra has been a big force in the Philly area for years, and their collaboration with Joey DeFrancesco dates back to 1997 and the live recording "Swinging Blue". The DVD gives the viewer a first hand look at Joey's hands in action-the guy is truly amazing. This project would make a great ChristJazz gift, indeed.
In a striking contrast to the above CD, this date is, in a word, funky. I don't mean in a bad way, but a Horace Silver, soul-jazz, groovin' kinda way. And there's plenty of grooves to go around from this tight band of 6 players, with Walters at the helm on his B3, piano, and occasional melodica and percussion. The players include drummer of note Stanton Moore, veteran Johnny Vidacovich also on drums and percussion, James Singleton, bass, and guest Tim Green on tenor sax.
For all it's high energy and intense drumming, the CD left me a bit cold. Even with all the New Orleans influences brought by the players, you don't hear it in the music. The tunes all seem to have a similar groove, and I get the feeling the whole thing is sort of an in-joke, since there are indistinguishable studio comments and instructions through the date. OK, I was tapping my toes here and there, but I felt somewhat removed from most of the date (exception being the track "Big Dummy"). These guys might have had fun recording this CD, but I didn't really have fun listening to it.
by Michael Handler