Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3 – Kevin Coelho (2012)

Album artwork for Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3

Perhaps it would be unwise to say that Kevin Coelho is one of the best jazz organists this world has ever seen.  To make such a bold statement, given the genre’s rich and expansive history, would surely step on many people’s toes.  The boy is only seventeen, after all.  For all we know, he may not even be allowed to legally drive anything, let alone a B3.  Why is it, then, that I can feel him channeling that same energy that we hear from all the jazz and blues superstars we’ve come to love?  As a rising star himself, Coelho is a living embodiment of the power of music; it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, as long as you create honest, impassioned music. This is certainly the case with his debut album, Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3.

Right off the bat, it is easy to tell that Kevin Coelho truly is basking in “the joy of driving a B3.”  The record starts off by immediately throwing you into the swing of the title track, “Funkengruven.”  Coelho teams up with guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson to form one of the most tightly-knit trios I’ve heard in quite some time.  It quickly becomes evident that all three of them are instrumental masters in their own right, and the chemistry between them shines through.  As the group starts off by running through the head of the first tune, we are lured in by a relatively calm, modest opening.  And then, before you can say “jivin’ jitterbugs,” Coelho kicks it up a notch with his first organ solo on the album.  This is one it starts to get real.  Although he starts out soft, he continues to escalate more and more, until you suddenly find yourself wondering how such creative ingenuity is even possible.  Definitely a fantastic way to kick off the record.

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Saxophone Colossus – Sonny Rollins (1956)

Album artwork for Saxophone Colossus

Album artwork for Saxophone Colossus

The early days of Sonny Rollins were a time when jazz was flourishing across the United States. The atmosphere in the music scene was full of excitement as jazz musicians continued to experiment and strive to push the envelope. Growing up in Harlem alongside other soon-to-be jazz greats, Rollins quickly become enamored with such a world full of creative expression, and he began rising through the ranks as an outstanding jazz musician.  He played with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.  By this time, the stage was set for Rollins to cross the bridge into jazz stardom, and in 1956 he released Saxophone Colossus, an album which would change the perception of jazz saxophone forever.

There are very few records that are more definitively jazz than this one.  Saxophone Colossus is an essential part of any jazz collection worth its salt.  Despite having been recorded over fifty years ago, it still remains as an incredible album that stands out effortlessly against some of today’s best releases, just as Sonny Rollins still remains as one of the most influential jazz musicians.  Sonny Rollins brought about a new method of musical creativity and improvisation to the table; something that made his style truly unique.  To this day, it has proven immensely hard for other jazz musicians to copy such a distinct style.  He’s frequently been described as a “free player” and a “thematic improviser.”  As Rollins himself has put it, he is a so-called “stream-of-consciousness player.”  In other words, he has gained the incredible ability to be completely spontaneous in his solos, but also to give such improvisations a cohesive overall structure at the same time. This is not an easy task at all when soloing over fast, complex chord changes.

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