There’s something about the sound of the guitar with the Hammond B3 organ. It’s often hard to explain. The nuances of the timbres found in both instruments when combined together in musical interplay that is rooted in the blues, creates a sonic palette like no other. It is this sound that initially attracted me to the jazz guitar. The first recording that I heard of the jazz guitar was Smokin’ at the Half Note by Wes Montgomery. While this recording didn’t contain the organ/guitar combination in the instrumentation, it soon led me on a musical journey. Being exposed to Wes Montgomery at such a young age led me to this unique relationship between the organ and guitar that I found with Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith on The Dynamic Duo and Wes with Melvin Rhyne on Boss Guitar. These records eventually led me to Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith together on the record Back At The Chicken Shack. After that I was hooked.
Upon moving to NYC in 1991, I spent many years playing with various organ players. There was Augie’s where I played and hung out regularly. But it was in Harlem was where I worked with several different organ players almost nightly. From Showman’s Lounge to Lickety Split, Perks, La Famille and others, the music that was coming out of these clubs embodied all that I loved about music. Honesty, self-expression, the blues, raw emotion and virtuosity were all coupled with a social environment that welcomed people from all backgrounds into a collaborative discussion. This opportunity, which continues today, was made possible by the music, the food and the people assembled.
This recording showcases the evolution of my experience playing jazz. The tradition of the jazz canon and the lineage of the standard of jazz performance handed down from my heroes (Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Jim Hall and Grant Green) remain at the root of my soul as a musician. But there are many other interests, sounds and musical palettes that resonate inside me.
The opening song “One Hundred Ways “is a song I grew up with and played in bands as a kid. One day I started singing this tune in a different way and it hit me that it could be made into a greasy, bluesy arrangement. So it landed here. “Bock to Bock” was introduced to me on a Pacific Jazz cut out record that I randomly picked up as a teenager in Binghamton, NY. I always loved this tune, but had never heard it played by an organ trio. It fit perfectly. “Saucy”, the title cut, is a tip of the hat to my days playing regularly in Harlem with one specific organist who almost exclusively played in the key of G. To this day, G is one of my favorite keys on the guitar.
“Ted’s Groove” was written for one of my guitar teachers and mentors Ted Dunbar. Of the many gifts Ted possessed was his depth of harmonic comprehension and application. This tune is a harmonically rich composition that I would hope carries to where Ted’s spirit lives on, and shows that his lessons continue here on earth.
I have always been a fan of many different singer-songwriters and to me, nothing beats a good song. Paul Simon is a huge influence on me. While his original version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” sung by Art Garfunkel introduced me to this song, the Aretha Franklin version of it, along with Paul Simon’s later versions opened up the possibilities of different treatments of this tune. I also heard this song in my head as I thought about the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and most recently Hurricane Sandy. The joining together of the message of this song with a New Orleans “second line” feel seemed appropriate and fueled this rendition.
In 2008, Joseph Grana, a fine guitar player and appreciator of the beauty of history, people, music, art, food and drink, died in a tragic plane accident. His wife Jennifer Kelly entrusted Joe’s Martin 000-15M guitar to me shortly after his passing. That night, I began to play this guitar on the terrace of our midtown apartment. A song permeated out of his instrument and the tune “Always Around” was born. That song was recorded on this CD with Joe’s guitar.
The tune “Secret Love” has always been a favorite of mine since I was first introduced to it during one of my early experiences sitting in on a jam session at Augie’s during the late 1980’s. I didn’t know it at the time (that night I went home and learned it), but for whatever reason that song has remained a one of my favorites. Another favorite of mine is “Ceora” written by Lee Morgan. The rhythmic background of the sounds of Brazil coupled with the sophisticated rhythmic, melodic and harmonic attributes of be-bop and hard bop music make for a very interesting marriage of musical textures. I have always enjoyed improvising on this song.
The last two tunes of the recording are original compositions. “The Big Bailout” is a tongue-in-cheek nod at the banking industry debacle of a few years ago and how government stepped into save them. The recording closes with a tune written for Pat Martino, another jazz icon. “Pat-a-tat-tat” is a tribute to Pat’s contribution to the lineage of the jazz guitar sound, and specifically the linear quality of his playing. He also has a deep connection to the organ trio tradition that comes from Harlem and is found in many other urban areas of the country including Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Newark, and other cities.
Often times, musicians record projects based on a specific experience. This recording represents a documentation of a broad experience over many years. Overall I want every listener to feel great when they listen to music. I had a ball making this CD and I hope the music enclosed within puts a smile on your face and spring in your step. Thanks for listening.