Pat Bianchi / Lawrence Leathers / J.C. Stylles

Exhilaration & Other States

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Guitarist J.C. Stylles is helping to keep alive a venerable jazz tradition, one that for a while seemed in danger of fading away: the organ trio. Although he leads this group and his solos are the focal point, it's the sound of Pat Bianchi's Hammond B-3 organ that really defines the character of the ensemble. Since jazz organists provide their own basslines (using the organ pedals), the only other member of the trio is the exquisitely tasteful drummer Laurence Leathers; while everyone swings mightily, it's Leathers who quietly creates the rhythmic structure against which their swing pushes, and who makes possible both Stylles' and Bianchi's exhilarating flights of musical fancy. And as the title suggests, there is lots of exhilaration here: Stylles is a fine ballad player, but he plainly lives for uptempo burners, and those are the highlights on this album: a scorching version of "Love for Sale" (which notably features a frantic-sounding but actually tightly controlled organ solo), a delightful arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It," and an equally fun version of "Knucklebean." Stylles demonstrates his facility with unusual arrangements by adapting R. Kelly's "It Seems Like You're Ready" as a ballad, and by taking the chord changes from John Coltrane's whole-tone-scale-based "Giant Steps" and writing a new melody in samba style over them, calling the result "Samba Steps." There is not a single weak track on this very impressive album.

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