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excellent purveyors of the organ trio sound
Tokyo Live (Verve)
The Free Spirits featuring John McLaughlin
Speak of the Devil (ECM)
The John Abercrombie Trio
By John Goodin
Let's imagine that you have been enjoying the fine cassette from Louisville's Java Men, as I have, these last few weeks and you find yourself hungering for more of that guitar-organ-drums sound. These new releases present two of the masters of post-bop guitar in the classic organ trio format, each adding his own flavorful twist to the brew.
Before Mahavishnu, while he was just beginning his apprenticeship with Miles Davis, John McLaughlin was part of the explosive Tony Williams Lifetime. That organ trio featured the revolutionary Larry Young on organ and can claim a great deal of the credit/blame for the jazz-rock craze that followed its brief existence.
The Free Spirits showcase one of Miles' last students, Joey DeFrancesco, on organ and Dennis Chambers on drums. Tokyo Live is a burning set of McLaughlin tunes that is more mainstream and bluesy than the wild Lifetime recordings. McLaughlin makes one of his periodic returns to electric guitar and shows he can still crank out some amazing stuff in the macho killer-axe mode. DeFrancesco shows impressive command of the music, gets a great, funky sound and plays a beautiful trumpet on the ballad "When Love Is Far Away." Dennis Chambers displays a powerful, yet musical, personality on drums.
John Abercrombie returns once again to his organ trio roots (early work with Johnny "Hammond" Smith) on Speak of the Devil. This is his second recent recording with organist Dan Wall and drummer Adam Nussbaum and together they produce a great band sound. The idea here is not to recreate those great swingin' grooves of yesteryear but to use the Hammond B3 to give Abercrombie's jazz concept what he calls "an earthier expression."
Nussbaum plays with strength and finesse. Wall's organ work is orchestral in support of the guitar solos and brilliant in his own solo turns. Abercrombie sounds great and plays fiery, exciting improvisations on the uptempo tunes (check out "Hell's Gate" and "Mahat") and provides lush, chordal depth to the ballads (see "Chorale" and "Farewell").
If more of that organ trio sound is on your mind then Tokyo Live and Speak of the Devil are worthy of your inspection.