Cory Henry – The Revival – Ground Up Music 80024621-00 (CD + DVD), 78:45 each, ****1/2:

Some of that old time religion and a Hammond B-3 is a great combination!

(Cory Henry – Hammond B-3 organ; James Williams – drums, percussion; Bishop Jeffrey White – vocals)

As improbable as it sounds, Cory Henry began playing the organ at the age of two. His prodigious career includes working with a wide array of musicians including Yolanda Adams, Michael McDonald, Snarky Puppy, The Roots, P Diddy and Bruce Springsteen. At the core of his musical soul is gospel.

Cory Henry’s latest release, The Revival, is an homage to gospel. And in the hands of Henry, there is no better vehicle for spreading the message than the Hammond B-3 organ. Returning to perform at The Greater Temple of Praise, Henry infuses several church standards and a few secular numbers with dynamic, glowing sound. Opening with “Lords Prayer”, the performance starts with a hushed reverie. Henry continues to maintain a low-key soulful vibe, building to a crescendo of vibrato and sustain with modulations and tone diversity that is electrifying.

Picking up the tempo, “He Has Made Me Glad” demonstrates a foot-stomping, joyous resonance (not unlike “When The Saints Go Marching In”). His dexterity and creativity transforms the hymnal to a spiritual celebration. His style emphasizes jazzy grooves and well-timed flourishes with a compelling sustain finish. Henry clearly understands the meditative framework that feeds into the jazz/blues modes. “Precious Lord” has an underlying rhythm and blues groove that receives a jazz expansion. Here the power and emphatic agility of the right hand notation stretches out the basic gospel prayer. Each number builds intensity and has many explosive riffs that get de-accelerated with graceful play. The audience shows its vocal appreciation during the conclusion to “Precious Lord.”

Bishop Jeffrey Wright brings some authentic fervor as he sings “Old Rugged Cross”. It is a perfect match as Wright’s fervent vocals and Henry’s muscular organ licks are potent. Wright’s big vocal finish ignites the crowd. Henry is a consummate performer and leads the crowd in a simple one word sing-a-long on “Naanaanaa”. It demonstrates the connective power of gospel music. The populist message is palpable on the reworked snippet of “If You’re Happy And You Know It”.

Not afraid to delve into “secular” music, there are three interesting and different covers. The first is an up-tempo version of John Coltrane’s 1960 milestone, “Giant Steps”. Henry maintains the ability of intermingling genres (in this case bop and gospel) while offering compelling instrumental fluency. In true jazz fashion, he reshapes Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love Is Fair” with moodiness and colorful punctuations, but still has an underlying slow-burning fervor.

Paul McCartney’s breakthrough composition (“Yesterday”) has been covered by a wide range of jazz artists. But this cover lets the poignant melody bask in Hammond elegiac imagery. It is unique and injects a spiritual element. Henry finishes in a big way with the groove fest, “I Want To Be Ready”. Aided by James Williams on drums, the percussive organ rhythms display a prominent, festive energy.

The Revival is uplifting and a great listen. There is a DVD of the live set, filmed in widescreen with a default PCM stereo audio setup. Watching the manual dexterity required to operate a 400 lb. Hammond B-3 organ is intriguing. The term virtuoso had been routinely misused, not in the case of Cory Henry and his B-3. it is undoubtedly accurate in this case!

TrackList (CD + DVD are similar): Lord’s Prayer; He Has Made Me Glad; Precious Lord; Old Rugged Cross; Naanaanaa; That Is Why I’m Happy; If You’re Happy; Giant Steps; All Is Fair In Love; Yesterday; I Want To Be Ready

–Robbie Gerson