Mike Arroyo Jazz Organ Trio – Full Circle – Self (2012), 40:47 ****:
(Mike Arroyo – guitar; Kyle Koehler – organ; Vince Ector – drums)
The fusion of Christian hymns and jazz is not a new concept. Many keyboardists (including the legendary Jimmy Smith) have explored the soul of religion in idiomatic expression. Gospel has formed the pedigree of rock & roll, rhythm & blues, Broadway, traditional blues and nearly every other American popular musical genre. Artists as diverse as Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and George Gershwin have been inspired by spiritual themes.
Pastor Mike Arroyo has released an organ trio album, Full Circle. With guitar, B-3 and drums, the tradition of cool soul gospel continues. The opening track, “His Eyes Is On The Sparrow/ El Cuidara De Mi” sets the template for the project. Arroyo’s guitar lines are mellow and crisply notated. He exchanges melody leads with Koehler (Bobby Watson, Fathead Newman, Jimmy Heath), who brings great texture and nimbleness to the jam. At the core is the steady timing of Ector (Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, Dr. Lonnie Smith). Evolving from a church pretext, the trio has a breezy vibe that is rhythmic and accessible. The musical flow is not always predictable. “I Surrender All/Todo A Cristo Yo Me Rindo” starts with a deliberate dual lead before Ector’s drum brake launches a percolating groove. Again Arroyo shows off his articulate notation in advance of the full organ riffs.
Shifting to an ambling dreamy waltz-time, “I Belong Jesus/Yo Pertenezco A Cristo” features inspired organ play from Koehler. Arroyo’s leads on familiar compositions like “The Old Rugged Cross/La Cruz De Jesus” demonstrates some of the fluidity of Wes Montgomery. Koehler ramps up the piece with a blazing solo. In a change of pace, “Holy, Holy, Holy/Santo,Santo, Santo) slows the tempo, but not the momentum. But this is still gospel and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus/Oh Que Amico Es Cristo” approximates a Sunday morning resonance.
Arroyo’s delicate guitar illuminates the first part of “In The Garden/A Solas Con Jesus”. Ector initiates a sprightly transition and the trio hits their stride again. Two additional highlights are the meditative bliss of “Doxology/Doxologia” as guitar and organ play in poignant lockstep. The title cut (an original by Arroyo) showcases Koehler’s rich B3 aesthetics and Arroyo’s uplifting solos.
Full Circle is satisfying and transcends gospel!
TrackList: His Eyes On The Sparrow(El Cuidara De Mi); I Surrender All (Todo A Cristo Yo Me Rindo); I Belong Jesus (Yo Pertenezco A Cristo); Full Circle (El Retorno); The Old Rugged Cross (La Cruz De Jesus); Holy, Holy, Holy (Santo, Santo, Santo); What A Friend We Have In Jesus (Oh Que Amigo Es Cristo); In The Garden (A Solas Con Jesus); Doxology (Doxologia)