Sunday, December 21, 2008

Odd Couple: B3 and Clarinet

On its face, pairing a Hammond B3 organ and clarinet on a jazz album makes about as much sense as eating a peanut butter and vinegar sandwich.

And then again, maybe it's not so bad.

Last year, a local jazz DJ played a cut from a CD that caught my attention. The CD was called "The B3 and Me" and it was by an unknown (to me) clarinetist named Mort Weiss, paired with organist Joey DeFrancesco. It was released in 2006.

Now, I'm a big fan of the B3. I have quite a few Jimmy Smith albums. I also like Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and Shirley Scott. At the same time, I enjoy wild klezmer clarinets and even Benny Goodman's big band. So I bought the strange B3-clarinet CD.

And surprise -- it's good fun.

For the most part, this is a traditional B3 trio, with organ, guitar and drums. Most of the music would be familiar to Jimmy Smith fans. But in every song where a soulful sax might take the spotlight, there's a clarinet instead. It fits.

The music is mostly bebop, swing and ballads, and it is very fine. I particularly enjoy Craig Ebner's taseful guitar. It goes without saying that DeFrancesco is terrific. If you like the B3, he's the guy to watch these days.

Oddly enough, DeFrancesco isn't credited on the cover or anywhere else in the liner notes. Something about a dispute with his label. But it's not like the producer tried to hide him. The CD cover states, "FEATURING A VERY SPECIAL GUEST: The Finest Jazz Organist in the World, Concord Recording Artist... You Guessed It."

OK, that's not very subtle. But anyway, if you like B3 combos, this is one to try.

(There's a very thorough review of this album at here, including a longer explanation of why DeFrancesco is not credited in the liner notes.)


Tad said...

DeFrancesco -- what a monster! He's bringing his trio, sans clarinet, to Roanoke in April.

Tad said...

And what a story on Weiss. Forty years away from the instrument? Amazing.

Jazz 88's said...

I was never a big DeFrancesco fan until I got this album. But I've always been a huge Jimmy Smith fan. Saw him in Norfolk just a few weeks before he died in 2005. For a guy who was near death, he swung like crazy.

If you want to see the wildest Hammond B3 video ever, go here:
Four B3 organist playing one tune: Paul Shaffer, Joey DeFrancesco, Doug Riley and Dr. Lonnie Smith. (Yeah, I know. Paul Shaffer? He's very good.)

Tad said...

I've always thought that Shaffer was a monster. Dr. Lonnie Smith, too. I'll check out that vid.