“Papa” John Defrancesco, B-3 – A Philadelphia Story – Savant SCD 2112, 51:32 ****:
(“Papa” John Defrancesco, Hammond B-3 organ; John Defrancesco Jr., guitar; Glenn Ferracone, drums; with special guests, Joey Defrancesco, trumpet on tracks 1 & 3; Joe Fortunato, tenor sax on track 8)
The Defrancesco association with the Hammond B-3 organ has been primarily with son, Joey Defrancesco, who was tutored from a young age by his father, “Papa” John. John also has another talented son, John Jr. who is quite adept on guitar in a Hammond B-3 trio setting. John Sr. started out as a trumpeter years ago and took up the Hammond in his early 20s. His career was put on hold while raising his family and working with his boys. Joey also took up the trumpet as a secondary instrument. On Papa John’s new CD, A Philadelphia Story, Joey plays trumpet on two memorable tracks, but leaves the Hammond keys to his old man.
The tracklist is largely familiar with a selection that in the wrong hands would bring yawns, but with these men, is a stone groove. “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” with Joey on trumpet is infectious and lays down the funk. Clapton’s “Strange Brew”, never a Hammond B-3 mainstay, passes the test with flying colors due to John Jr’s tasty guitar licks. Lou Donaldson’s “The Thang” is made for organ treatment and does not disappoint. The Isley’s “It’s Your Thing” with wah-wah effects will bring a smile to your face.
After listening to this CD, I have to admit that the talent Joey inherited on the organ certainly came from his dad, as John can bring on the famed Hammond “greasy” sound with the best of them. His playing is never showy but he drives the groove hard and never makes you miss the contribution of a horn player on the six tracks where it is just the trio. There is a rock solid groove that the trio brings that brings you into a inner city club vibe that locks in and does not let up.
“You are My Sunshine” misfires a bit as it is hard to “lubricate” this chestnut. All is forgiven, however, with two originals, “Dr. Mike” and the title track as John Jr. shows off his blues guitar chops fronted by sympathetic backing by his dad. Oscar Pittsford’s “Blues in the Closet” brings tenor saxist, Joe Fortunato, into the mix and we get a taste of the joy a sax brings to the standard Hammond trio. Joe has the skill to make you wish he was included on some of the earlier soul numbers.
I would give A Philadelphia Story the distinction of saying it could belong in Blue Note’s Rare Groove Series, which is a real honor considering some of the classic soul jazz legendary issues found there. Props go to Papa John for this great CD and being such a great teacher and inspiration to his sons…
TrackList: Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Strange Brew, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, The Thang, It’s Your Thing, You are My Sunshine, Dr. Mike, Blues in the Closet, A Philadelphia Story
— Jeff Krow