Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Papa" John DeFrancesco Is Himself a Big Shot

Fans of organ jazz certain have a delightful new release from "Papa" John DeFrancesco, Big Shot on Savant. Father of Joey DeFrancesco, the renown organist, Papa John himself has been a celebrated organist of the years. Joey is present, playing piano and other keyboards in a supportive role, while another son,John Jr., handles guitar. The rest of the band is comprised by Jerry Weldon’s tenor sax, Mike Boone’s bass and Bryon Landham’s drums.

They deliver a program of blues drenched numbers starting with a walking tempo rendition of Red Top, a classic since Gene Ammons made it his own with slower tempo here making for a relaxed groove as Weldon states the theme followed by John Jr.’s solid single note playing and a tasty solo on the Diversi organ that Papa John plays that captures the sound of the Hammond with perhaps a fuller tone in the foot-pedal bass.

From Gene Ammons to the Doors as Joey’s keyboards sets the dreamy atmosphere for Riders in the Storm, with Papa John taking the first solo after Weldon states the theme and then the saxophonist takes a vigorous solo. Next up is a solid ballad performance, Too Young to Go Steady, with Joey’s piano setting the mood followed by some lovely tenor sax and Papa John’s moody organ offset by Joey’s piano and some nice brush work from Landham.

Nolo, picks up the tempo with his funky groove and John Jr is prominent with some fine playing as Weldon riffs behind him with Papa John suggesting Jimmy Smith’s mojo here. The title track is a solid walking blues, while Maricopa, has a light Latin groove with Weldon, Papa John, John Jr., and Joey all prominent here. Down Home, is a moody late night blues while the disc closes with the funk of What, with Joey coming off like Billy Preston while Weldon shows his funk sax groove while John Jr. is a it more electric in his playing that perhaps come off least interesting track here.

The fact that the music here may not stretch boundaries and makes for comfortable listening should not be viewed as a criticism but the recognition of the strengths of Big Shot which is characteristic of what makes the best organ jazz, soul-blues grooves with tenor sax and other musicians who are fine storytellers. Recommended.

This review originally appeared in the January 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 323). I received my review copy from the publication. Here is "Papa" John performing a Jimmy Smith classic.

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