Soul-jazz and more inspired by a newer British Invasion.

Hart, Scone and Albin – Leading the British Invasion [TrackList follows] – Zoho Roots ZM201801, 63:20 [1/5/18] ****1/2:

(John Hart – guitar; Adam Scone – Hammond organ; Rudy Albin Petschauer – drums)

Hammond organist Adam Scone, drummer Rudy Albin Petschauer (who shortens his professional name to Rudy Albin) and guitarist John Hart look to the musical British Invasion for inspiration on their 63-minute trio outing, the aptly-titled Leading the British Invasion. But don’t expect to hear The Beatles, Cream, The Rolling Stones or others who crossed the Atlantic in the 1960s. For the most part, this 11-track collection of covers (plus one band original) is more contemporary. The idea was to redo songs by female singers who had recent success, although there are a few items which go back decades. Hart, Scone and Albin give a hearty soul-jazz approach to tunes recorded by Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Lorde, Adele, Dusty Springfield and Sade. The result is not simplified instrumental copies of material done by the women. This CD is a masterful set of reinterpreted popular singles or album cuts. The emphasis is on covers which stand on their own but don’t lose the melodic lines, the lyrical quality or the harmonious sensibility.

Scone and Albin previously worked in NYC retro-funk group, The Sugarman 3. Albin and Hart were in Jack McDuff’s band. Scone has some solo releases to his credit. Hart’s résumé comprises keyboardist Larry Goldings, saxophonists Lou Donaldson and James Moody, and others. This recording marks the first time the three have come together for a studio date.

There are three Winehouse tunes. The trio kicks off with an up-tempo translation of “Rehab,” Winehouse’s autobiographical song about rejecting help for her substance abuse. Scone, Albin and Hart re-arrange it as a 16-bar blues and jettison any bleak tinges. Scone’s Hammond is spirited and soulful. The trio bring liveliness and dynamism which recalls Grant Green and a bit of Booker T. and the MGs. On the flip side is a moodier rendition of the standard “Body and Soul,” which Winehouse did as a duet with Tony Bennett a few months before her death in 2011. The third Winehouse piece is the title track from her 2007 album, Back to Black. Albin, Scone and Hart provide a jaunty tone reminiscent of memorable organ jazz trios of the past.

Two Adele songs are back to back. The trio changes 2011’s “Turning Tables” into a winning jazz waltz with nods to organist Larry Young, drummer Elvin Jones and apparently John Coltrane, although that might be best discovered by discerning listeners, since there doesn’t seem to be an overt Coltrane quote. On Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” the trio goes into an all-out Jimi Hendrix and Band of Gypsys rock groove. Hart adds fuzz and distortion to his guitar tone; while Scone lays down a soulful touch which keeps the jazz quotient upfront. Albin splits the difference with drums which balance rock and jazz. Scone admits the first thing he learned on drums was some Led Zeppelin. He hasn’t forgotten how to create a rhythmic classic rock drive.

Three older selections should be familiar to most music fans. Countless artists have done Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ubiquitous “The Look of Love” including Dusty Springfield in 1967. Scone, Albin and Hart sustain a jazz/bossa perspective but rebuild the harmony into something unusual. The oldest number is Springfield’s 1964 debut single, the pop-leaning “I Only Want to Be with You.” This rendering has a sunlit stylishness and the trio swings it like something from the Great American Songbook (maybe call it the Great British Songbook?). Then the trio reconstructs Sade’s 1984 smash, “Smooth Operator,” into a rollicking shuffle which does not immediately evoke Sade; which is a good thing because Hart, Albin and Scone turn “Smooth Operator” into an undulating and animated romp. Another notable pick is a lengthy, rock/jazz adaptation of Lorde’s 2013 hit “Royals,” a denunciation of luxurious lifestyles of contemporary artists. Hart’s blues-based guitar mirrors Hendrix or post-Beatles George Harrison. One of the longer pieces is the self-penned, scintillating “Blues for the U.K,” which the liners notes state is “A little shout-out to our friends across the pond.” “Blues for the U.K.” is a wonderful, infectious organ jazz excursion. If you’re a jazz organ enthusiast and somehow missed Leading the British Invasion when it came out back in January, you should seek this one out.

TrackList:
Rehab
Don’t Start Lyin’ to Me Now
The Look of Love
Smooth Operator
Royals
Turning Tables
Rolling in the Deep
I Only Want to Be with You
Blues for the U.K.
Body and Soul
Back to Black

—Doug Simpson