CD review: Joey DeFrancesco – More Music 2021: Video, CD cover

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On ‘More Music’, master organist Joey DeFrancesco, who has long supplemented his keyboard virtuoso with his skilled trumpet playing, here brings out his full arsenal: organ, keyboard, piano, trumpet and, for the first time on record, tenor saxophone.

More Music offers up ten new DeFrancesco originals, brought to life by a scintillating new trio with fellow Philadelphia organist and guitarist Lucas Brown and gifted drummer Michael Ode.

Most would consider Joey DeFranceso (Joey D.) the premier organist in jazz.  Followers are also aware of his skills on trumpet and of course, other keyboards. Now he’s added another instrument to his arsenal – the tenor saxophone and even proves vocal crooner on Mario Romano’s “And If You Please.” This writer was fortunate to see this new Joey DeFrancesco Trio in the last concert in 2020 prior to the lockdown but More Music, is their recording debut for the versatile Philadelphia-based unit. They can groove in the tradition of Philadelphia organ jazz when Lucas Brown plays guitar, but Brown can deftly switch to organ or keyboard, allowing the leader to step out on trumpet or tenor. Michael Ode anchors these configurations as the steady force on drums.

While the trio has been operating with these various instruments for the better part of two years in their live shows, the album was recorded just this past January. Across these eleven tracks, we find the leader playing trumpet on three of them, tenor on three, taking that lead vocal on one, and primarily playing organ on just five.  Brown is the main organist on five, guitarist on four, and keyboardist on two. So, it’s probably fair to say that the title refers to more instruments and the notion that as we emerge ever so slowly from the pandemic, that we could all use more original music whether live or recorded.

“Free,” a briskly moving original opens with the leader on trumpet and keyboard while Brown solos energetically on the B3. Tempo downshifts to the ballad “Lady G” as DeFrancesco makes his tenor entrance with a breathy low register tone. It’s a dedication to his wife as Brown adds subtle support on organ and keys. DeFrancesco assumes his rightful (or usual) place on the B3 for “Just Beyond the Horizon” as Ode peppers the tune with ricocheting rim shots and Brown plays the guitar as he and Joey D. trade lines in the traditional organ trio lineup in this mid-tempo strut. “In Times of Reflection,” is predictably contemplative with Brown playing a lovely sounding acoustic guitar and Joey D. the focused trumpet and piano. Regarding the trumpet, keep in mind that as a teenager Joey D. played with Miles Davis, and close listens will reveal the legend’s influence on Joey D.’s trumpet sound.

Speaking of influences, there’s some of Charles Lloyd’s spiritual quality in Joey D.’s tenor excursion in “Angel Calling,” where Brown is also quite emotive in his organ solo. Devoted organ fans will love the two organists sparring in unbridled fashion on “Where to Go” with Brown on the first solo and the leader on the second stocked with a series of stirring bluesy runs, following his own trumpet solo. Ode gets the spotlight as well. “Roll With It” and the title track have the classic organ-guitar-drum sound with the vocal “And If You Pleased,” the only cover, interspersed. The latter begins with a tenor intro and Joey D. is such a natural crooner that one may wonder why we haven’t heard more vocals from him before. His tenor solo is deeply soulful, matching the vibe of the old-school tune.

As they go out, Joey D. returns to the B3 with Brown on keyboards for the last two, the contemporary-sounding “This Time Around” and the swinging, joyous, gospel-infused “Soul Dancing,” completing a thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting hour plus listen.  Possibly Joey D. has created some intrigue in terms of which instrument he may unveil next, but his bandmate Brown has so many of the others covered, that he should be more than content with his current arsenal in which he has strong command of each that he plays.

1 Free 3:39
2 Lady G 5:41
3 Just Beyond The Horizon 6:41
4 In Times Of Reflection 7:29
5 Angel Calling 5:44
6 Where To Go 7:24
7 Roll With It 4:38
8 And If You Please 4:14
9 More Music 6:05
10 This Time Around 7:09
11 Soul Dancing 6:37

Vocals, Organ, Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone, Keyboards, Piano, Producer – Joey DeFrancesco
Guitar, Organ, Keyboards – Lucas Brown
Drums – Michael Ode

Challenge Records International - More Music (vinyl) - Joey DeFrancesco *

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