If you are at all like me, you might have felt that after hearing artists like Booker T & the Mgs, Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, and Larry Young for years, there wasn’t much still to discover from an organ /guitar / drums trio. Well here are two recent releases – recorded close to 50 years (!!!) apart – that have forced me to revisit my biases.
Let’s go first to the oldest. In 1968 guitarist Dennis Coffey was a member of the Funk Brothers, had already played on many hit sides for groups like the Supremes and the Temptations, and was also an in-demand session guitarist at Motown and other Detroit-based labels. Not bad for a 28 year old white guy. This record catches him in blazing form on a late set (from 1968 at a small club in Detroit, called Morey’s) as part of a trio led by fellow Detroit caucasian session wizard, organist Lyman Woodard.
The music they make here is nothing short of astounding. It is of the historic moment and mixes soul, jazz, funk and rock with ease. Beside a burning take on the Meters’ “Cissy Strut”, you can find lengthy workouts on Richard Evans’ “Burning Spear” and the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”, and even a set closer on Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce”.
The music of this recording is clearly of the churning time and place that would give birth to the jazz-funk guitar riffs that was in the process of changing the music forever. At the same time (as the allmusic.com review of this record points out) this music is also raw and slashing, as the MC5 and the Stooges were to other Detroit rock of that era. Miss this release at your peril!
Now let’s go to the other focus of this review, and a band you actually can catch now. The Delvon Lamarr Trio comes from Tacoma and recently did a free show at this year’s (2018) Vancouver Jazz Festival. This record is the second album release by this band, this year, and features a set they played live at the KEXP studio, in Seattle, in May of 2017. It includes a sizzling take on Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up” and live versions of both sides of the trio’s first single from their earlier 2018 release, the equally excellent “Close But No Cigar”. In addition to Lamarr’s consistently strong organ workout the set also features screaming guitar from his partner Jimmy James, most notably on a cut called “Tacoma Black Party”.
The playing (and even the cool “Blue Note” looking cover) on this album hearkens back to a time when there were a number of driving bands that regularly, and successfully, trampled the boundaries between jazz and soul. Think especially of Jimmy Smith’s electrifying “Root Down” live record from 1972.
This live Delvon Lamarr Trio set was also released earlier in the year, in a limited edition format, for Record Store Day.
I anticipate both of these exciting live trio sets being on many Top Ten lists for 2018, come the end of this year.