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New Light

by Ian Mann

July 21, 2006


Off the wall eclecticism that can attract a cult.

This organ trio hail from Dublin and for the last seven years have played all over Ireland including a number of prestige dates at Cork Jazz Festival where they have been the jam session house band for the last three years. At Cork they also got to perform with the great American alto saxophonist Bobby Watson. They also have a long-term Friday night residency at Slattery’s pub in Rathmines, Dublin.

All this work has made this young band a highly cohesive unit and Music Network; a division of the Irish Arts Council has helped to finance this, their debut album. The material is all composed by members of the band with one notable exception, which we’ll come to later.

The music is largely groove based with gospel and blues elements but they are also adept at ballads as exemplified by the unhurried “Rejections” where the use of space is as important as the notes themselves. The band consists of Justin Carroll on Hammond B3 Organ, John Moriarty on guitar plus drummer Kevin Brady. It is a similar line up to that deployed by the late Larry Young and it is possible that the organ trios of guitarist John Abercrombie may also be an influence.

I would guess that the band have also listened to Medeski, Martin & Wood and of course the Daddy of them all the late, great, Jimmy Smith.

The loose, bluesy swing of Moriarty’s “According To John” kicks off the album his rounded guitar tones propelled by Carroll’s purring Hammond and Brady’s intricate but unhurried percussion.

Carroll’s title track has a similar feel but with the organ sharing the solo honours.

Now we come to the band’s take on Brian Daly’s theme to the children’s TV programme Postman Pat. Yes really! Jazzwise reviewer Tom Barlow refers to it as “a great mistake” but I disagree. This is the sort of off the wall eclecticism that can attract a cult following and attract the attention of non- purists. It must be hard being a jazz organ trio in Ireland when all the natives want to listen to is modern rock and pop and the tourists are clamouring for riddly-diddly traditional folk. This is a good hook to attract and hopefully keep new listeners and is almost certainly a live favourite. Mr Barlow may find the theme irritating but the improvisations are as good as anything else on the album-and, damn it- it’s a bit of fun!

We’ve already touched on Carroll’s ballad “Rejections” which offers a complete contrast of mood. Slow and atmospheric with subtle and inventive percussion from Brady it is a very effective piece of music.

Carroll also contributes “Pound” a return to the loping swing of earlier numbers with the organist adding a great bass line with the pedals. Moriarty supplies a nimble bebop style guitar solo. He quotes the late, great guitarist Wes Montgomery as being one of his favourite musicians and that influence certainly shows in his playing.

Moriarty’s “Down Hoe” has a true gospel feel and is characteristically unhurried. It swings gently and effortlessly and Moriarty and Carroll provide ambling, conversational solos totally appropriate to the mood of the piece.

“Angela’s Kitchen” by contrast bustles along with intricate organ passages and tricky guitar lines but with Brady still providing that all-important groove, swing and pulse.

Brady’s “Elysian Fields” is perhaps, the album’s most intriguing piece, based on modal ideas and with more changes of mood and pace within a single composition than anything we’ve heard so far. All three musicians solo to good effect with Moriarty’s quick, inventive, guitar followed by Carroll’s swirling Hammond and Brady’s energetic drumming.

“Give Up The Cake” takes the album out on an infectious feel-good groove with the now familiar mix of blues and gospel-drenched organ, bebop influenced guitar and inventive drumming which is simultaneously controlled and intense. Carroll takes the solo honours on this one, really cutting loose.

Organics have made a very good album.

The Hammond Organ is a contradictory beast. It can be a wonderful instrument-swirling, growling and rumbling- soulful and bluesy. But in the wrong hands it can sound hideously cheap and cheesy like those dreadful “Hammond A Go Go” records your Dad used to have in the sixties.

Justin Carroll never falls into that trap, and is excellent throughout. He always sounds good and although a more than capable soloist he never dominates the group. There is very much the feeling that Organics is a partnership of equals. Carroll’s support of guitarist John Moriarty and his use of pedals to provide bass lines is excellent. Moriarty takes full advantage of this to produce some magical solos. Carroll and drummer Kevin Brady lay down some great grooves and the percussionist’s inventiveness and subtlety add much to the group sound. He is an excellent foil to his two companions.

They should be well worth seeing if they ever visit the UK. If not what better excuse is there for a weekend in Dublin, or a trip to Cork Jazz Festival?

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