Skip Heller

The Battle in Seattle

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Once upon a time, real musicians used to get together purely for enjoyment, and play the hits of the day: it was a common ground for all musicians, and the way standards became standards. When the "business" of music started competing with the music itself, these sorts of friendly get-togethers became more and more rare. That's part of what makes The Battle in Seattle such a treat: a guitarist from L.A. hooks up with an organ/drums duo from Seattle, for a real live jam session. Guitarist Skip Heller chose a handful of tunes he liked, but had not played in some time, if ever. He flew up to Seattle, rehearsed for about an hour-and-a-half with DOSE (Joe Doria, organ and John Wicks, drums), and they hit the stage as a trio. This is what musicianship is all about. As a working band, Doria and Wicks are about as tight as you can get, like there's a mind-meld going on. Skip Heller can play in damn near any context, and the three lock together for this set of standards and should-be-standards. Much like Grant Green, there is no flash in Heller's playing, he's always serving the melody as a soloist or in full-support mode while comping. Doria's playing takes a similar approach: he's not out to show off, but his playing is impressive all the same (be sure to check his bass pedal lines). John Wicks is not only a great timekeeper, his fills and rhythmic shifts are always deep in conversation with the other players. This album was released by Heller on his own Jewbilee label as a response to the audience that night practically demanding a document. That led to this group being signed by Joel Dorn's Hyena label, which speaks as highly to their talents as anything a reviewer could muster.

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