Joey DeFrancesco – One for Rudy – High Note HCD 7256, 59:16 ***½:
(Joey DeFrancesco – Hammond B-3 organ; Steve Cotter – guitar; Ramon Banda – drums)
For small session jazz recordings, Rudy Van Gelder has been the pre-eminent sound engineer for over sixty years. Recording out of his home studio in New Jersey, which has taken on iconic status, Rudy has recorded most all the jazz greats going back to the early 1950s. He was the engineer for the great Blue Note sessions of the 1950s and 1960s, and was there for Prestige Records as well in their heyday. With the assistance of Maureen Sickler, Van Gelder is still going strong in the new millennium, well into his 80s. He is known for getting the sound “just right” for whatever session or genre being recorded.
A point of discussion has been whether it be the acoustics of his studio, microphone placement, or spot on recording levels, but whatever the secret of his success, it has not even been remotely duplicated by anyone else. For artists, it is a privilege to make the pilgrimage to Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and let Rudy work his magic. It is then up to the musician to produce a good product. Rudy seldom needs more than one day to record a CD, so the impetus is on the group leader to be prepared.
Joey DeFrancesco, one of the greatest living Hammond B-3 artists, decided the time was now to honor Rudy Van Gelder with a tribute, both in name as well as song title selection. Joey recorded his second album with Van Gelder back in 1990 and returned again in 2012 for Wonderful!, Wonderful! (High Note HCD 7241). On One for Rudy, DeFrancesco reprised tunes such as “Monk’s Dream,” and “Canadian Sunset” (done by Gene Ammons with Rudy at the helm in 1960) that were recorded at the Van Gelder studio. Other classic tracks by Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis were covered as well with Rudy working his magic. (It would be hard to think of a well-known jazz standard that was not recorded at least several times at Rudy’s studio…)
The vibe found on Joey’s new recording is relaxed, and swinging in the classic organ, guitar, and drums format. On “I Don’t Want to be Kissed” Joey uses only the organ’s percussion and it gives an old school roller rink effect. Bebop enters on Miles Davis’ “Budo” and drummer Ramon Banda is featured here. As usual, Rudy has the drummer perfectly upfront in the mix, as Joey’s fingers fly over the organ to keep pace. The moody, atmospheric “Goodbye” follows next, and the effect is haunting, as Joey lets the organ sound like you might hear in a church hymn.
“Canadian Sunset,” made famous by Gene Ammons on Boss Tenor back in the day, is given a western cowboy type treatment, and guitarist Steve Cotter lopes along in step with Joey and Ramon. Hard bop enters the mix on the subsequent, “Up Jumped Spring” from Freddie Hubbard’s pen. Speaking of fascination with The West, DeFrancesco covers Sonny Rollins’ “Way Out West” that created quite a stir for Sonny over the album cover photo chosen for Rollins’ album back in 1957, when Sonny gave jazz treatment successfully to “I’m an Old Cow Hand” and “Wagon Wheels.” Joey stays with a straight hard-charging Hammond version here.
“Monk’s Dream” features improvisation in a manner that you might not recognize the tune as Monk’s. “Stardust” is done with respect for the tune’s melody, while the album’s closer, “One for Rudy” is the tribute to the master engineer. It was written by Joey’s wife, Gloria, and appropriately is in a blues motif, which could be an honor to the myriad of classic Hammond sessions experienced in Rudy’s studio throughout the decades.
A nice touch is found with the back cover photo of Joey with Rudy, as you have to go out of your way to find photos of Mr. Van Gelder.
TrackList: I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed, Budo, Goodbye, Canadian Sunset, Up Jumped Spring, Way Out West, After You’ve Gone, Monk’s Dream, Stardust, One for Rudy