Dan Adler – Back to the Bridge – Emdan 820360144325, 64:18 ****:
(Dan Adler – guitar; Joey DeFrancesco – Hammond B-3 organ; Byron Landham – drums)
Some things never go out of style. Guitarist Dan Adler understands. On his latest project, Back to the Bridge, the Israeli-born, New York City-based musician tries his hand at the organ/guitar/drums trio format with Hammond B-3 organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Byron Landham, who has worked with DeFrancesco for years. The 65-minute, 10-track outing is interesting and stimulating partially due to a combination of four originals, five standards and an adaptation of an older Israeli folk tune and more fully because of the trio’s intuitive interaction.
The covers furnish plenty of room for the trio to show solo precision as well as group unity. On Joe Bushkin’s “Oh! Look at Me Now” Adler commences with an unaccompanied introduction which displays a lyricism akin to Adler’s acknowledged icon, Joe Pass. From there, the trio holds to an easy-loping groove that lays out the melody that most people probably remember as a Frank Sinatra vehicle, although jazz fans may recall Hank Jones’ solo piano reworking or the fine version George Benson recorded when he was with Jack McDuff. Adler fills the first sweeping solo space, followed by DeFrancesco, who keeps the arrangement snapping along but in no way overplays. Adler demonstrates his interpretative abilities on a reshaping of Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring.” Adler sprinkles in new melodic arcs to Brown’s well-known melody while the trio explores two different tempos, which gives the rendition an unusual stance. The trio does not go outside Brown’s vision yet they put forward a fresh outlook. The Styne/Kahn standard “A Beautiful Friendship” starts with a second line march led by Landham: then the tune shifts to a likeable mid-tempo bounce that gradually enters hard-bop territory. Frank Loesser’s lovely “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” contains a slightly quicker pace than typical, highlighted by Landham’s dexterous brushwork and Adler’s clean, clear tone and swift chord runs. An organ trio album would not be complete without one blues. In this case, it’s a soulful, mid-tempo translation of Oscar Peterson’s “The Smudge,” where DeFrancesco and Adler build varied solos while they also render admirable comps behind each other’s improvisations.
One outstanding experience is hearing Adler’s “Silver and Gold,” an up-tempo number that honors Horace Silver and in particular his composition “Mayreh,” done when Silver was employed by Art Blakey. The burner captures Silver’s earthiness, harmonic sophistication and melodic flair. Landham is on fire as he provides an insistent swing, while DeFrancesco and Adler contribute several determined solos. On the atypical title track Adler mixes a non-bebop head with a set of bebop solos: the result is modern-sounding, with nods to John Scofield and Jerry Bergonzi. Another notable number is the Caribbean-flavored “Between Jobs,” a lighthearted jaunt that delivers a comedic tilt. At the other end of the scale is the melancholic “Yatsanu At,” an Israeli folk ballad about affection and separation. Adler supplies a bluesy sentiment that instrumentally conveys the feeling of a soldier leaving his loved ones.
Back to the Bridge does not break new ground but that is not Adler’s intent. This is music that has an awareness of the past, is fluent with the present and has a preciseness that will appeal to anyone who enjoys traditional modern jazz.
1. Silver and Gold
2. Oh, Look At Me Now
3. Joy Spring
4. Back to the Bridge
5. Good Old Days
6. A Beautiful Friendship
7. Yatsanu At (We Left Slowly)
8. Between Jobs
9. I’ve Never Been in Love Before
10. The Smudge
— Doug Simpson