Jazz CD Reviews

Jermaine Landsberger – Gettin’ Blazed – Resonance Records

Landsberger initially began on guitar as a Django Reinhardt fan, and then took up the piano and it wasn't until 2001 that he switched to Hammond organ.

Published on April 26, 2009

Jermaine Landsberger – Gettin’ Blazed – Resonance Records

Jermaine Landsberger – Gettin’ Blazed – Resonance Records, RCD 1009, 50:11 ****:

 (Jermaine Landsberger – Hammond B-3 organ, Rhodes piano, arranger on tracks 2-3, 5-7, & 9; Pat Martino – guitar on tracks 1, 2 and 6; Andreas Öberg – guitar; Harvey Mason – drums; James Genus – acoustic and electric bass; Gary Meek – tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; Kuno Schmid – synthesizer, Rhodes piano, arranger on tracks 1, 4, 8 & 10)

Every jazz generation produces a new breed of Hammond B-3 organist, from Jimmy Smith to Joey DeFrancesco to Larry Young. For the 21st century, listeners can now add European Jermaine Landsberger, who makes his American debut on Gettin’ Blazed. While Landsberger is not rewriting the book on the instrument, he does have a slightly different take on the soulful organ that bodes well for the future of the Hammond B-3.

Unlike other B-3 players, Landsberger was not unduly influenced by major artists such as Smith, Jack McDuff, or others. That is because he initially began on guitar (he counts Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino as heroes), and then took up the piano (influences include Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett) and it wasn’t until 2001 that he switched to Hammond organ. Also, Landsberger grew up immersed in his family’s gypsy music and Django Reinhardt’s likeminded swing material, and was not a formal fan of the soul jazz and blues-rock that permeated many Hammond B-3 recordings.

Gettin’ Blazed enables Landsberger to demonstrate his skill, creativity, and varied tastes, using a stellar backing band. One of Landsberger’s idols,  Pat Martino, guests on three tracks. Also on board is drummer Harvey Mason, who always excels in any musical situation; Swedish guitarist Andreas Öberg, known for his pop-oriented credits; bassist James Genus; saxophonist Gary Meek; and Kuno Schmid, who has worked with Öberg and other pop-inclined musicians. Together, the musicians cover several styles with finesse and vitality, from post bop to pop, samba to ballads, which gives plenty of room for Landsberger to show his organ proficiency and for the players to stretch out.

Martino fans in particular will want to check out the popular guitarist’s contributions. On the album opener, Paul Markowitz’s "Sno’Peas," Martino executes an effective and earthy solo that evokes the gigs he did as part of Don Patterson’s soul jazz organ combo. During the same track, saxophonist Gary Meek furnishes a simmering donation complemented by Landsberger’s underlying keyboards. Martino is also showcased during Marcos Silva’s lively Latin number "Brazilian People," highlighted by Martino’s fast-paced lines and Meek’s brisk flute. Martino’s finest offering occurs during a somber, wistful rendition of accordionist Richard Galliano’s slow burner, "Romance." Here, the mood is meditative and Martino provides two lengthy improvisations suffused with longing and subtle passion.

Ironically, Öberg does the guitar honors on an interpretation of Martino’s spirited and fiery bop composition, "Three Base Hit." Öberg more than holds his own, playing with unbridled enthusiasm that is evenly matched by Landsberger’s swelling, energetic lines. Öberg is also distinguished in other contexts. He glides effortlessly during some polished statements on the relaxed ballad "Ballada Para J (Ballad For J)," written by guitarist Paul Morello, a longtime Landsberger collaborator. Mason underscores the leisurely proceedings with some lithe brushwork that is expertly balanced by Genus’s sympathetic bass. Öberg reveals his pop roots on a blazing, up-tempo version of Stevie Wonder’s "Another Star," which is also fueled by Landsberger’s dashing, nimble organ solos, Genus’s resolute walking bass lines and Mason’s bountiful, swinging rhythms.

A similar, fervent tone can be heard on a hard-bopping performance of Django Reinhardt’s "Babik," named after Reinhardt’s guitar-playing son. This song is one of the record’s most prominent jams, an awe-inspiring delivery. Landsberger discharges spine-tingling and growling organ riffs. Öberg dispenses sizzling, swift bop lines rendered with frantic pacing and precision. Genus submits a spry and resonant electric bass solo full of muscle, while Mason bestows his typically flawless beats. Kuno Schmid tacks on a bit of Rhodes piano for some final seasoning to the steamy outing.

Although Schmid does not augment much instrumentation to the ten tunes, he does supply some sharp arrangements to four cuts, most notably a fruitful readjustment of Horace Silver’s "Filthy McNasty," readymade for a funky organ combo setting. Landsberger undertakes a piano-styled, bluesy approach on the Hammond B-3. Öberg cuts loose with some scatting six-string unison lines. Meek buffets along with a strapping tenor saxophone solo. Genus grabs a short spotlight with a deep, low bass solo. And the whole ensemble finalizes the album closer with a tight-knit coda.

Landsberger’s two originals fit in fine with the other material. On the blues-infused "Valse Manouche," Landsberger displays his two-handed attack, applying his piano-learned technique while emulating DeFrancesco’s hastened right hand style. Meanwhile, Öberg builds up some George Benson-esque fretboard excitement, while Mason and Genus lay out a frisky tempo. Slowing the program down, Landsberger also presents his harmonically rich and aptly-named "Night Ballad," where he makes splendid use of tonal changes, while Meek imparts a seductive, resplendent soprano saxophone solo.

Gettin’ Blazed
is highly recommended for the B-3 audience, gypsy jazz fans, and general jazz aficionados looking for some soulful jazz.

TrackList:

1. Sno’ Peas  
2. Brazilian People  
3. Ballada Para J (Ballad for J)  
4. Three Base Hit  
5. Valse Manouche  
6. Romance  
7. Babik  
8. Another Star  
9. Night Ballad  
10. Filthy McNasty

– Doug Simpson




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