Monday, December 6, 2010

Fancy Footwork

Unlike the late President Gerald Ford, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but the most physically coordinated person I admittedly am not. So I come to the first generation Hammond organ players with much respect and not a little wonder at their multi-limbed dexterity. Although all kinds of weaving bop lines and greasy blues phrases are emanating from the dual keyboards, the sounds generated from the instrument's lower extremities are what tend to grip my attention. Did these guys have eyes in their feet? How do you keep those swinging bass lines popping from the pedals below while grooving on the keys above? To me it seems a minor miracle, but then again manipulating the vacuum cleaner correctly can strike me as a triumphant act as well.
Be that as it may, Don Patterson was really quite the juggler, keeping hands and feet independently alert and working overtime. The throbbing bass undercurrent that he lays down, grounding this "Impressions" -like workout, is thrilling in its rhythmic solidity and unerring harmonic accuracy. Not to ignore all the activity on the surface, but the substrata action, at least for this flabbergasted listener, is just as riveting. Booker Ervin takes a typically vivid solo that strikes me as being just the right length, considering that modal pieces like this tend to encourage elephant age improvisations. And drummer Billy James, the unsung champion of this performance, exhibits the supportive swing of such 1960s peers as Grady Tate and Al Harewood: utterly dependable, ever-elegant, rhythmic engines steaming behind the onrushing trains. And when the mighty Ervin drops out, the fun really begins. Patterson and James go to town, more than happy to prove that the melodic interjections of a horn or the chordal underpinning of a guitar are unnecessary for them to generate a full-rounded sound or to maintain intensity and interest. A performance like this inspires me to possibly consider clog dancing lessons. Well, maybe not.

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