CD review: Akiko, Hamilton, Dechter – Equal Time 2019: Video, CD cover

Since the 1950s when it began to be featured in jazz bars and clubs, the jazz organ trio has been an essential part of the jazz scene, as owners at that moment, were looking for an inexpensive way to get a room-filling sound from a small group. The Hammond B-3 organ was the “beast” that drove this popularity with the rotating Leslie speaker system that produced a quavering tremolo sound.

It is uncertain when exactly the B-3 made its way to Japan, but it did and it seems to have found favour with several female jazz artists among them; Midori Ono, Atsuko Hashimoto and the featured player on this disc Equal Time, Akiko Tsuruga. Although diminutive in size, Tsuruga accompanied by guitarist Graham Dechter and the formidable drummer Jeff Hamilton,  produces an impressive sound in the organ trio style.

The album opens with an original composition from Tsuruga “ Mag’s Groove” and it is a vivacious bluesy swinger. Pushed along by Hamilton’s strong drumming, Tsuruga is full of propellant energy and Dechter has an assured feel over the fret board.

Another Tsuruga original “Osaka Samba” which she named after her Japanese home town, is diverting change of pace which is tastefully accentuated by Hamilton’s dancing brush work. Dechter offers some long single note runs and Tsuruga is nimble over the smooth samba melody.

A couple of jazz numbers ensue starting with Hank Mobley’s “A Baptist Beat” followed by John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice”. Mobley’s offering is from his 1960 release Roll Call and it is a rhythmic blues with a series of call and responses between Dechter and Tsuruga which add to the soulfulness of the arrangement.

The Coltrane number is from his 1958 Blue Note album Blue Train which was perfected in the hard bop mode of the time. The trio perform their rendition preserving these bop antecedents. Each of the players give their instruments a workout as they cover the chord changes with dexterity and assurance.

The album closes with Steve Allen’s “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big”which was written as part of the score for the 1954 television musical version of The Bachelor. This snappy version is filled with collaborative swing as the band members offer bristling solos that are both adaptable and penetrating.

The band’s dynamic exuberant style falls squarely in the jazz organ trio tradition.

  1. Mag’s Groove
  2. Orange Coals
  3. Osaka Samba
  4. A Baptist Beat
  5. Moment’s Notice
  6. Lion’s Gate
  7. I Remember You
  8. This Could Be The Start Of Something Big

Akiko Tsuruga – organ;

Jeff Hamilton – drums;

Graham Dechter – guitar

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