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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show


Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

Feb 27, 2019

I first fell in love with the music of Joey DeFrancesco  twenty years ago, when I booked him on an epic Organ Summit triple bill with the late Charles Earland and Dr. Lonnie Smith for the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz.  What an evening that was! Significantly younger than the other greats sharing the stage that night, he more than held his own, and seemed as excited as any fan in attendance to be part of a very special event.

Since then, DeFrancesco has perhaps done more than anyone to expand the manner in which the organ can be played in jazz. Not only has he recorded “traditional” organ trio recordings with guitar and drums, but he has put together musical tributes for some of his favorite musicians (Horace Silver, Michael Jackson); been a sideman for John McLaughlin and Corey Weeds; played with the Count Basie Orchestra; and released the exciting and politically charged album Project Freedom, credited to Joey DeFrancesco + The People. By augmenting his trio with saxophonist Troy Roberts, it seemed that Joey had turned a new corner in his musical progression.

His latest CD, In the Key of the Universe is proof that he has.  Rather than retain the core players from his Trio, DeFrancesco brought back from previous sessions the legendary Billy Hart on drums;  Sammy Figueroa on percussion; and Roberts on  a variety of saxes, and even bass(!) to anchor a band that is filled out by the ageless Pharaoh Sanders on sax. While there is plenty of swing on In the Key of the Universe, musically it represents a long look into the intersection of Spiritual Jazz and Groove.

A listener needs to go no further than Joey’s take on Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan.”  Originally recorded fifty years ago this month, DeFrancesco’s take is as third as long as the epic piece, and finds new ways to reinterpret a standard. In the Key of the Universe reimagines the sound of the organ in this kind of music, and as a whole shows that DeFrancesco is willing and ready to stretch his talents once again.

Joey has also been in the news for his collaboration with another legend – Van Morrison. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Irish singer had released more than an album a year of jazz, blues and soul, much of it cover material before he hooked up with DeFrancesco and his group. In 2018, he teamed with Joey’s band of Michael Ode, Dan Wilson and Troy Roberts for You’re Driving Me Crazy, an album that reinterpreted some Van classics like “The Way Young Lovers Do” as jazz standards, and played chestnuts like “Miss Otis Regrets” with a new swing. A critical success, a second album, The Prophet Speaks, an R&B and Blues influenced set, was released in early December.

Podcast 666 gives us a chance to hear about Joey’s collaborations with the two legends – Pharaoh and Van – plus talk about the future of jazz organ, and allows him to reminisce about his high school days in late 80’s Philadelphia, when he shared bandstands with the teenage Christian McBride and Kurt Rosenwinkel, and jammed with the likes of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (The Roots) and future members of Boyz II Men. Musical selections from In the Key of the Universe include the title track and "I first fell in love with the music of Joey DeFrancesco twenty years ago, when I booked him on an epic Organ Summit triple bill with the late Charles Earland and Dr. Lonnie Smith for the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz. What an evening that was! Significantly younger than the other greats sharing the stage that night, he more than held his own, and seemed as excited as any fan in attendance to be part of a very special event.
Since then, DeFrancesco has perhaps done more than anyone to expand the manner in which the organ can be played in jazz. Not only has he recorded “traditional” organ trio recordings with guitar and drums, but he has put together musical tributes for some of his favorite musicians (Horace Silver, Michael Jackson); been a sideman for John McLaughlin and Corey Weeds; played with the Count Basie Orchestra; and released the exciting and politically charged album Project Freedom, credited to Joey DeFrancesco + The People. By augmenting his trio with saxophonist Troy Roberts, it seemed that Joey had turned a new corner in his musical progression.
His latest CD, In the Key of the Universe is proof that he has. Rather than retain the core players from his Trio, DeFrancesco brought back from previous sessions the legendary Billy Hart on drums; Sammy Figueroa on percussion; and Roberts on a variety of saxes, and even bass(!) to anchor a band that is filled out by the ageless Pharaoh Sanders on sax. While there is plenty of swing on In the Key of the Universe, musically it represents a long look into the intersection of Spiritual Jazz and Groove.
A listener needs to go no further than Joey’s take on Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan.” Originally recorded fifty years ago this month, DeFrancesco’s take is as third as long as the epic piece, and finds new ways to reinterpret a standard. In the Key of the Universe reimagines the sound of the organ in this kind of music, and as a whole shows that DeFrancesco is willing and ready to stretch his talents once again.
Joey has also been in the news for his collaboration with another legend – Van Morrison. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Irish singer had released more than an album a year of jazz, blues and soul, much of it cover material before he hooked up with DeFrancesco and his group. In 2018, he teamed with Joey’s band of Michael Ode, Dan Wilson and Troy Roberts for You’re Driving Me Crazy, an album that reinterpreted some Van classics like “The Way Young Lovers Do” as jazz standards, and played chestnuts like “Miss Otis Regrets” with a new swing. A critical success, a second album, The Prophet Speaks, an R&B and Blues influenced set, was released in early December.
Podcast 666 gives us a chance to hear about Joey’s collaborations with the two legends – Pharoah and Van – plus talk about the future of jazz organ, and allows him to reminisce about his high school days in late 80’s Philadelphia, when he shared bandstands with the teenage Christian McBride and Kurt Rosenwinkel, and jammed with the likes of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (The Roots) and future members of Boyz II Men. Musical selections from In the Key of the Universe include the title track and "Vibrations in Blue", plus Van and Joey’s take on Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s “Gonna Send You Back to Where I Got You From” from The Prophet Speaks.