Jazz CD Reviews
Bernstein, Goldings, Stewart – Live at Smalls – SmallsLive
Published on December 11, 2011
Bernstein, Goldings, Stewart – Live at Smalls – SmallsLive SL-0022, 69:27 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ****:
(Peter Bernstein, guitar; Larry Goldings, Hammond B-3 organ; Bill Stewart, drums)
The last ten years have been quite good for fans of the Hammond B-3 organ. Along with the old guard such as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Papa John DeFrancesco, his son, Joey, Rhoda Scott, Mel Rhyne, and Reuben Wilson, who continue to record Hammond-led CDs, there has been a new group of younger B-3 funksters, who have kept the organ in the vanguard of soul jazz. These include Mike LeDonne, Larry Goldings, Pat Bianchi, and Sam Yahel. Many of them like Mike LeDonne, and Larry Goldings, also play the piano on a regular basis.
SmallsLive, the Greenwich Village intimate jazz club, has been putting out a varied series of both avant and more straight ahead live recordings done at their club. The acoustics have been fine, and they often mix an established star, like Jeremy Pelt, with local New York talent to bring to the jazz hinterlands the live recording ambience of a typical small (found mostly in New York City) club.
Recorded in early 2011, Smalls featured three of the best Hammond rhythm section mates, Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, and Bill Stewart. The test of a Hammond trio is whether you find yourself missing the requisite saxophone, that often fleshes out and incorporates some needed horn accompaniment to the group. Club owner and producer, Spike Wilner, knew that with this trio, a sax would be a welcome addition, but certainly not a requirement. After all, Peter Bernstein is one of the first choice electric jazz guitarists on the scene today. He is used often by Dr. Lonnie Smith and other veterans for his combination of tasty licks, clean lines, and an innate swing. Bernstein brings to the table what the great Kenny Burrell would do in a supporting role. He is never showy, but swings in a relaxed manner that is always just right for the setting, whether it be a ballad or a hard bop burner.
I’ve always dug Goldings’ Hammond playing, as he is a team player, and stirs the pot depending on what is needed. Drummer, Bill Stewart, like Matt Wilson, can play with anyone in any style that fits the session.
For their Smalls release, they have chosen a combination of standards-(“Every Time We Say Goodbye,” “Milestones,” “Nobody Else But Me”), along with soul jazz tracks by Duke Pearson and Percy Mayfield; and an original each from Goldings and Bernstein.
Highlights include Bernstein’s impeccable choruses on Duke Pearson’s “Chant,” the blend between Peter and Larry on “Molto Molto”; the groups’ twelve plus minute rendition of Miles Davis’ “Milestones” complete with spacey intro, and the bluesy Percy Mayfield composition, “The Danger Zone,” where Bernstein brings to mind Grant Green. Drummer Stewart shines here as well as his cymbal work is crisp and mixed well.
The acoustics are first rate, the setting is ideal for a Hammond B-3 trio, and this trio’s recording rates high up on the Small’s catalog of issues.
Highly recommended for Hammond fans….
Tracklist: Chant, Molto Molto, Everytime We Say Goodbye, Just a Thought, Milestones, Nobody Else But Me, The Danger Zone