Organist Radam Schwartz certainly has the blues in mind on his new Savant recording Blues Citizens. The blues has always been fertile ground for Hammond B-3 combos and that is true on this disc produced by drummer Cecil Brooks III who anchors Schwartz along with the alto sax of Bruce Williams, the tenor of Bill Saxton and the guitar of Eric Johnson.
Not that the music is mostly built on twelve-bar numbers, but it is blues-related. Schwartz's original that opens it is a burner Dem Philadelphia Organ Blues, which was apparently inspired by Don Patterson who called the City of Brotherly Love home for several years. Driftin’ is a strutting performance of Herbie Hancock composition on which guitarist Johnson shines. Schwartz’s bluesy dirge Grief But Be Brief, was inspired by listening to Ossie Davis eulogize Betty Shabezz but became even more relevant when his son died in a motorcycle accident. It is a moving duet between Saxton and Schwartz, that is followed by the full band on the title, with its march like cadence.
Brooks helps drive things along where keeping the march like tempo on Blues Citizens, or on the walking groove over the very familiar Misty, with more fine playing from all involved. Kice is added to the shuffle blues groove of Pay Up, with his rap about not letting money taking over our lives with Schwartz laying down the bass vamp groove and the saxophones adding their interludes around the rap and Johnson playing some nice bluesy lines.
I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance, shows just how good a ballad player Saxton is, while the horns sit out the marvelous interpretation of Jimmy Hughes deep southern soul classic Steal Away. Producer Brooks contributed the hot Hanging With Smooth, which the two horns trading eights and then fours before solos from organ and drums.
The closing Eighth Wonder, is Schwartz’s ripping salute to the legendary Jimmy Smith with the leader being pulling out the stops. Blue Citizens is simply stated a terrific album that should appeal to fans of hard-swinging, straight-ahead jazz, not simply fans of the Hammond B-3.
This review originally appeared in the July 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 318) and that publication provided me with the review copy.