Saturday, January 07, 2017

Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing Skronky Tonk

Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing
Skronky Tonk
EllerSoul Records

While best known for his blues guitar Little Charlie Baty has been including playing some jazz-like material with Little Charlie and the Nightcats. While with that band, he did a solo project in 2005 rooted in the swing era that Alligator passed on. A few years later he had an opportunity to do a blues and jazz CD which he was delighted with, but alas still as not been released. He since has left fronting the Nightcats and engaging in a variety of different musical activities including touring with Anson Funderburgh and James Harmon, playing gypsy jazz and other jazz settings. In any event as Baty says, the third time is the charm, as EllerSoul has issued his first jazz recording by Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing, "Skronky Tonk" with Lorenzo Farrell on the Hammond B-3 (and bass on one track) and J Hansen on drums and percussion.

The mood is set on the opening title track, a blues, that provides the trio's sound and feel, with Baty displaying the taste and technique and musical imagination one expects. Listening to this recording one can hear a variety of influences at different times, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel and Les Paul. Paul's influence perhaps is most evident on passages of "How High The Moon," but even here Baty mixes in some bebop later. One can't underestimate Farrell's contributions whether comping or taking some greasy solos. Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" may be this listener's favorite track, with Baty outstanding with his nicely nuanced playing and warm tone and followed by his mix of single note runs and chords on "Pennies From Heaven," which also sports some deep fried grease from Farrell.

Baty's original bop tune, "Gerontology" is followed an evocative rendition of John Lewis' tribute to Reinhardt "Django," with Farrell evoking a church organ on this chamber jazz-type performance. Then there is the peppy Charlie Christian classic "Swing to Bop," and a nice rendition of the Brazilian choro classic from Pixinguinha, "Um a Zero." "Flying Home" closes this very solid guitar-organ trio album. I have not mentioned J. Hansen's contribution, but he is constantly in the pocket and pushing this swinging recording along. Farrell's Hammond B-3 playing is a revelation for a person who is known as a bass player, but displays his mastery of the organ here. Charlie Baty, with his consistently inventive, fluid jazz guitar, exhibits a side of his musical personality that many have not previously heard. One looks forward to more from him in this vein.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the September-October 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 368). I made a few minor revisions to the review. Here is Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing performing Kenny Burrell's "Chitlins Con Carne."

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