Robert Kennedy Trio – Big Shoes – self-produced

Robert Kennedy Trio – Big Shoes – self-produced [3/24/15], 56:44 ****:

(Robert Kennedy – B-3 organ; Mason Razavi – guitar; Cody Rhodes – drums)

It wasn’t until the late forties that organ trios (Wild Bill Davis, Milt Herth) surfaced. The amplified capacity of organs provided big band sound (with Leslie speakers) to smaller ensembles. Within a decade, players like Jimmy Smith, Hank Marr, Dave “Baby” Cortez and Jimmy McGriff popularized this format. In the 60s guitarists (Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Wes Montgomery) formed trios  with B-3 organ and drums. The subsequent jazz fusion movement improvised with Moog synthesizers, as did rock bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer. The jazz organ (especially Hammond B-3) trio remains a staple of the music scene. Joey DeFrancesco leads a new generation of organists, and many have followed.

One of these contemporary B-3 organ artists is Robert Kennedy. A regular on the San Francisco jazz scene, he has released a new album.  Big Shoes is a fresh collection of nine original such compositions. It opens with a jaunty, Latin-infused jam, “Long Strides”. Kennedy takes the lead on B-3 with a medium groove before guitarist Mason Razavi solos at the 2:15 mark. His lines are fluid and punctuated. Then Kennedy and Razavi exchange with drummer Cody Rhodes who adds some nimble drum fills. Kennedy resumes the organ lead on the final verse. A shift to a vampy waltz-time groove inhabits “Pleasant Company Expected”. There is an engaging, cinematic flow to the arrangement.  The jazzy elegance of the organ tonality frames the song. The shift to guitar is seamless as is the return. Bringing out the funk, “Root Bound” is flashier with soulful, intensified organ play and guitar hooks. The trio is exemplary in its cohesive structure and Razavi amps up his solo.

Late-night moodiness is at the core of “Radio Blues”. The depth of blues ambiance is reflected in the emotional lines of both instrumentalists. Picking up the tempo, “Upper Market” (a San Francisco reference) is spry with great trio interaction. Rhodes supports and trades rhythmic licks with his band mates. The straight-ahead jazz feel is captured. The title cut is a snappy blues read. Kennedy’s walking bass line drives the number. But his B-3 solo (with sustain) is dynamic. “Never Speak Your Name” is a moody ballad that has a stellar four-minute bossa nova transition that is a pleasant surprise. Rhodes’ steady brush/cymbal work kicks off “Love And Youth And Spring”. Kennedy and Razavi initiate a unison lead that is at the heart of this swinging piece. There is a syncopated break that demonstrates the agility of the trio. Both have smoky instrumental runs, organ on the first and guitar on the second. With atmospheric B-3 sonics, the finale “Lambadame” feels both jazzy and gospel-like.

Big Shoes will please B-3 aficionados, and jazz lovers alike.

TrackList: Long Strides; Pleasant Company Expected; Root Bound; Radio Blues; Upper Market; Big Shoes; Never Speak Your Name; Love And Youth And Spring; Lambadame

–Robbie Gerson

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