Diggin' Up My Roots
Hammond B-3 master Greg Hatza was playing boogie woogie on the piano at the age of 5 growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania. Growing up on classic R&B, he becoming obsessed with the Hammond B-3 after hearing Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy McGriff. Baltimore Colt legend Lenny Moore caught Hatza playing at a hotel in Reading, and asked him to perform at a club that he was opening in Baltimore. Moore would also became his manager and Hatza moved to Charm City, and recorded a couple albums for Coral Records at this time. Subsequently he led pretty diverse career, including playing other electric keyboards and later studying tabla and sitar. He met Joey Defrancesco in 1994 who advised him the B-3 was undergoing a popular renaissance and returned to playing that and forming the Greg Hatza ORGANization, who currently also consist of Robert Shaid on drums, Brian Kooken on guitar and Peter Fraise on saxophone.
The title of this disc refers to the R&B and blues songs that Hatza heard growing up and there are eight interpretations of "High Heel Sneakers," "I Got a Woman," "Back at the Chicken Shack," "Night Train," "Please Send Me Someone To Love,""Hand Jive,""Something You Got," and "Stagger Lee." There are also three originals, including a couple of vocals. The mood is set on the opening, bouncy blues, "Baltimore Strut," that allows Fraise to get down as Hatza lays down a greasy foundation before Kooken solos while Shaid and the leader maintain the groove. An original blues "Big Big Back," opens with some down-in-the alley organ before Hatza takes a vocal about his baby having a big behind. Hatza is ok as a singer, but he sounds off-mike for most of it before the closing vocal where the rest join him. It is followed by Tommy Tucker's "High Heel Sneakers," with a funky riff providing a fresh take on the blues classic.
The last original, "Headin On Down South," is another slow blues with some bluesy guitar from Kooken and a decent vocal. The renditions of "I Got a Woman," "Back to the Chicken Shack" and "Night Train" are straight-ahead organ group performances with everything played at a relaxed tempo. "Night Train," is partly adapted from the James Brown recording with Fraise's sax solo evoking Jimmy Forrest. The longest performance is the moody take on "Please Send Me Someone To Love," with some fine bluesy solos from Hatza, Fraise and Kooken. There is also a peppy take of the John Otis hit, "Hand Jive."
Digging up his musical roots, Greg Hatza has produced a solid, blues-drenched Hammond B-3 led jazz recording that will delight organ and soul jazz fans.
A publicist provided download files for the review. This review appeared in the July-August 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 373). Here is The Greg Hatza ORGANization in 2011 performing Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" from the now-defunct New Haven Lounge.