Source: IAN PATTERSON / allaboutjazz
There can't be many bands with a piano and an organ in the front line. There are few better exponents of Hammond organ—actually a KeyB—than Alberto Marsico ("I've never heard anybody do it better than Alberto"—Joey DeFrancesco) while Jeremy Monteiro—widely considered as the best jazz pianist in Asia—has cut it with James Moody, Michael Brecker, Jimmy Cobb, Toots Thielemans and, for twenty seven years with Ernie Watts. This is a summit meeting indeed. Guitarist Eugene Pao, drummer Shawn Kelley and tenor saxophonist Shawn Letts also bring plenty of bite—and no little finesse—to a set of hard-swinging, blues-drenched originals.
The celebratory "Mount Olive," Monteiro's homage to his former band-mates Eldee Young and Redd Holt, gets the set off to a flyer, with sunny melody, cracking solos, an unshakeable beat and a Gospel-blues wind-down setting the template for much that follows. Jazz and blues aside, there's bags of soul in these tunes; Marsico's organ takes us to the church of Ray Charles on the up-beat "Opening Act," with Monteiro chipping in with some tumbling boogie woogie. There's a hint of Miles Davis' "All Blues" on the intro to "Olympia," a powerful R&B number with Pao, Marsico, Letts and Monteiro all working up some steam.
The quintet takes its foot off the gas for Marsico's epic ballad "Lou," though there's smoldering passion in Letts' tenor. Monteiro's solo is laced with the vocabulary of early blues piano styles, Pao goes for the jugular with a soaring solo whereas Marsico lays down shimmering swathes of sustain; though all are singing from the same jazz-blues-soul hymn sheet the musician's individual personalities shine through. Kelley—an exciting, versatile drummer—plays the anchor role for the most part though on the melodious Monteiro/Pao tune "Monk in the Mountain," the Bangkok-based sticksman muscles in over organ and piano vamps.
Marsico's swinging "Jack-Pot" pays homage to Hammond organ legend Jack McDuff, who returned the compliment by recording the tune. Pao's fluid, Kenny Burrell-tinged blues is a highlight, contrasting with Monteiro and Marsico's more rhythmically pronounced interventions. Pao—first-call guitarist in Hong Kong—delivers the sort of chops throughout the set that convinced Michael Brecker, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette to play on By the Company You Keep (Somethin' Else, 1996), the guitarist's debut as leader.
An absolute album highlight is the wonderful reworking of Lennon and McCartney's ode to love "Here, There and Everywhere." This classic pop ballad starts out as a hushed blues with Kelley on brushes as Monteiro, Marsico and Pao tread softly in turn. The rousing finale, with Kelley switching to sticks is as surprising as it is energizing. All guns blaze on "Catastrophy." Marsico penned this tune in 2002 during the war on Iraq, dedicating it to the three Bs -Bush, Blair and Berlusconi. This tearing bebop set-closer owes more, thankfully, to Bird, Bud and Burrell.
Jazz-Blues Brothers is a stand-out record in both Monteiro and Marsico's respective discographies. Tuneful and exhilarating, soulful and swinging, Monteiro and Marsico might just have cornered the market in organ-cum-piano jazz.
Alberto Marsico: organ
Jeremy Monteiro: piano
Eugene Pao: electric guitar
Shawn Kelley: drums
Shawn Letts: tenor saxophone
1. Mount Olive
2. Opening Act
5. Monk in The Mountain
7. Here, There And Everywhere