Carmen Intorre – For the Soul – Random Act Records 2012 ****½:
(Carmen Intorre, drums and percussion; John Hart, guitar; Jon Irabagon, alto and tenor saxophone; Pat Bianchi and Joey DeFrancesco, organ and keyboards)
Carmen Intorre is joined by very special company on his recording debut. Not only do Hammond B-3 titans Pat Bianchi and Joey DeFrancesco elevate Carmen’s CD to funk and soul heaven, but guitarist John Hart and saxophonist Jon Irabagon help stir the pot. The fusion of jazz, funk, and soul is always a winning combination and having a producer like Bob Belden at the helm guarantees a first class production.
Intorre is a Juilliard grad who almost immediately found himself in big league company. He played drums for fellow Juilliard alum, Dominick Farinacci, and I have fond memories of catching the two of them at both the Monterey and Detroit Jazz Festivals. Currently Carmen tours with guitar legend Pat Martino.
On For the Soul, Carmen covers a heady mix of styles ranging from Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan, to Weather Report via Joe Zawinul, and Chick Corea. The opening track is Stevie Wonder’s “Too High,” which showcases John Hart while Irabagon and Pat Bianchi contribute to Stevie’s infectious groove.
“Tergiversation” provides the opportunity to hear Bianchi and DeFrancesco both solo and go to friendly battle. It is always a real treat to hear two Hammond masters on the same track—as the chewing gum jingle goes, “double the pleasure and double the fun.” Chick Corea’s “Steps” follows and the trio of Intorre, Bianchi, and DeFrancesco take on this fast tempo burner, and Carmen really shines here on his solo. Producer Belden provides Carmen with an opus to Carmen’s favorite car on “Carmen’s Caddie.” Irabagon gets props here for his tenor blowing, while John Hart again shines.
Joe Zawinul’s tribute to his former employer, “Cannonball” is a special ballad. It features some heavy keyboarding by Joey and Pat. Perhaps my favorite track on For the Soul is Carmen’s moving homage to his deceased mother, Joan, titled “Only One.” Irabagon’s tenor solo is deeply moving here and the love for Carmen’s mom jumps out at you.
Jon switches to the alto on Donald Harrison’s “Good for the Soul” and its catchy melody is stated by John Hart’s swinging guitar lines. Steely Dan’s “Josie” mixes the hip cool melody of Fagen and Becker with some funky stew elevating into free expression. Intorre’s winning CD closes with Weather Report’s “Black Market,” and Irabagon and Carmen really get an opportunity to wail, as they step out of funk and dive into some gritty fusion.
Carmen hits it out of the park with For the Soul. It is an auspicious debut release, with a brilliant accompanying band. On June 14, Carmen will have an album release gig with Irabagon, Bianchi, and Hart at New York’s fabled Birdland night club. The audience will be in for a real treat…
TrackList: Too High, Tergiversation, Carmen’s Caddie, Cannonball, Steps, Only One, Good for the Soul, Gibralter, Josie, Black Market
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