Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band
Message From Groove And GW
This is a year of some inventive organ releases and now one of the pacesetters for the jazz organ, Radam Schwartz, teams with drummer David F. Gibson and the Abel Mireles Jazz Exchange Big Band for a swinging trip through music inspired by Richard “Groove” Holmes with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra – hence the title. While Holmes played two of the bass lines on songs from their collaborative album, Schwartz becomes the first organist to play all the bass lines through an entire big band album. In that regard, this becomes the first album of its kind. Schwartz also contributed three originals and arranged five of ten tracks. And, Schwartz is not the only soloist as 12 of the 13 big band members have a chance to make economical statements. All personnel will be cited as soloists on one tune or another excepting trumpeter James Cage.
Essential to the lineup is drummer Gibson, who together with and guitarist Charles Sigler (whose playing at times evokes Wes Montgomery) join in that core organ trio rhythm and groove around which the big band revolves. The opener, “Trouble, Just Won’t Go Away” begins with the group singing, rather surprisingly, before the band engages in their ensemble parts yielding to solos from trombonist Peter Lin, tenorist Gene Ghee, Sigler and Schwartz. Coltrane’s “Blue Minor” follows with Schwartz taking a blistering solo along with tenorist Abel Mireles, altoist Danny Raycraft, and Schwartz. The leader takes Aretha’s “Ain’t No Way” R&B tune Charles Earland style into a swinger with solos from trumpeter Ted Chubb, tenorist Gene Ghee and Sigler. “Dig You Like Crazy” is an original that puts the full band in its best light as Chubb, Ware and Schwartz step forward. Mireles proves he has a way with infectious melody on his penned “What to Do” which finds him soloing with Sigler and Schwartz.
This is a democratic outing where Schwartz is often content to just lay down the groove, but he does manage to solo, sometimes very briefly, on every selection. Altoist Anthony Ware provides the spark beyond the core trio on the Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets.” Notably, organist William Gorman who has toured often with blues sax/vocalist/songwriter Vanessa Collier, arranged that tune and the opener. The title track is practically a mirror image of the sound one would imagine from Groove Holmes and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra with spots from baritone saxophonist Ben Kovacs, Gibson, Schwartz, trumpeter Ben Hankle, and trombonist Andrae Murchison. This is “The Groove” of the album and a true standout as Gibson holds all the fury together.
Trombonist Peter Lin composed the adventurous “A Path to Understanding,” another that finds the band in full flight as Lin joins trumpeter Lee Hogans and Schwartz out front. Schwartz’s arrangement of Mingus’ “Work Song,” at ten plus minutes, takes it even deeper into blues territory. The wailing organ opens followed by the muted trumpet of Hankle, the soulful trombone of Murchison, Ware’s alto, and Schwartz’s B3 digging into some gut-bucket blues, while Gibson keeps the insistent beat. Organists often like to include J.S. Bach in their repertoires and Schwartz obliges with the closer “Van Gott” that he arranged, giving solo opportunities to Lin and Gibson.
This is swinging, straight-ahead, bright, totally engaging music. This has been a year of not only some inventive organ projects but superb big band outings. This recording checks both boxes. It’s a must hear for its unrelenting groove we so desperately need in these times.
- Jim Hynes
More on the Artists
Radam Schwartz is a born and raised New Yorker who first began on piano before taking up the organ. He has worked with Arthur Prysock, Eddie “Lockjaw’ Davis, Al Hibbler, Russell Malone and many others, appearing on over 40 albums as a sideman. He has led or co-led nine of his own albums, is director of the Rutgers Newark Mosaic jazz Ensemble and is an educator, principally with Jazz House Kids for 13 years.
David F. Gibson has quite a pedigree as well. He has recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir, Harry “Sweets” Edison, and Clark Terry among others that include Frank Foster, Jimmy Heath, Dizzy Gillespie, and Stanley Turrentine. He has played behind organists Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff and Don Patterson.