Dan Moretti and the Hammond Boys – Live at Chan’s [TrackList follows] – Roots Grooves

Dan Moretti and the Hammond Boys – Live at Chan’s [TrackList follows] – Roots Grooves CD20141, 65:19 [9/20/14] ****:

(Dan Moretti – tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, mixer, producer; Duke Robillard – guitar; Dave Limina – Hammond B-3 organ; Jesse Williams – acoustic and electric bass; Lorne Entress – drums)

Expert saxophonist Dan Moretti is not well known outside a smallish circle of jazz fans. But the composer, teacher (Boston’s Berklee College of Music since 1996) and session player has both ability and integrity. And he loves soul-jazz. His latest sojourn, Live at Chan’s, was recorded a year ago at the Rhode Island venue, and includes his new quintet, the Hammond Boys, with blues legend/guitarist Duke Robillard (co-founder of Roomful of Blues); Hammond B-3 organist Dave Limina (another Berklee instructor, who has previously played with Robillard); bassist Jesse Williams (also Berklee and Robillard); and drummer Lorne Entress (whose long list of folk, blues and jazz credits are extensive). Moretti says his 16th CD (issued via his own imprint, Roots Grooves) was a long time in coming. He wanted to do this project since performing with Robillard in 2003. The long-gestating result is a potent brew of blues-bolstered jazz which harkens back to the glory days of the 1960s’ soul-jazz era.

The music (11 tracks, but the first is only an introduction) is a vivacious and snappy stew of covers. The opener is a dance-ready rendition of Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’,” with the emphasis on Moretti, as he warms up the appreciative crowd. Robillard eventually also enters, and flourishes his fluid, flowing style with stinging, single-note lines. The great Gene Ammons is translated twice. First is the upbeat and unbeatable “Shuffle Twist,” which has a boogie-woogie-hued enthusiasm and features Limina going all out (there’s a reason he teaches the Hammond organ to students), then Moretti slows it down just a bit (and then picks up the pace again) as he darts through a solo on his tenor sax, while Entress imparts an insistent groove on his drum kit, engendering a solid footing for Limina and Moretti. Williams presents a slightly funky flexibility when he undertakes an acoustic bass solo, and the quintet goes back to the head to finish up. Ammons’ “Twistin’ the Jug” has a similar mood and grooves with pleated guitar chords, winding organ riffs, arching drums and notched sax and guitar solos. Curtis Ousley (AKA King Curtis) gets some love as well on three cuts. “Da Du Dah” has a charming, comfortable ambiance. The frisky “Free for All” shifts from a standard arrangement which has sections of enjoyable, improvised phrases, to areas of spontaneity. “Low Down” is just that, a gliding, low-down blues number augmented by Moretti’s spry sax and Robillard’s eddying chords and sharp solo lines.

Some delicious changes occur during the hour-long set. Moretti moves to flute for a smoldering rendering of Roland Kirk’s “Soul Underneath,” where a mid-tempo drumbeat and gently-soulful bass lay out a compact cadence. Limina’s organ improvisation bubbles, boils and simmers, while Robillard provides bright, background chords to heighten the blues. Robillard fans should note he exhibits a full range throughout, he’s never relegated to side-man status, and his back-and-forth musical amity with Moretti is a highlight on most pieces. He delivers an earnest tone on his solo during King Curtis’ “Da Du Dah,” where he echoes early George Benson, when Benson was in Brother Jack McDuff’s group. Robillard takes the front role during a bounding adaptation of Grant Green’s “No. 1 Green Street.” While Robillard rings out some tasty licks on guitar, the organ and sax pivot around each other, revealing how complementary Moretti and Limina can be. Williams offers another juicy bass solo, this time on electric and Entress also does a short, rhythmic improv, which substantiates these guys know the ins and outs of the blues. Robillard is also memorable during “Low Down,” where his guitar solo is replete with the history of electric blues. And is there a better way to end a successful soul-jazz night than with something from the iconic Stanley Turrentine? A nearly seven-minute run through “Soul Shoutin’,” an obvious crowd-pleaser, puts the icing on an evening of sweet, bluesy jazz. The tune is an abundant workout for all involved and a cooker which is a categorical concluder.

TrackList: Introduction; Moanin’; Shuffle Twist; Da Du Dah; Free for All; Soul Underneath; No. 1 Green Street; Twistin’ the Jug; Ronnie’s Bonnies; Low Down; Soul Shoutin’.

—Doug Simpson

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