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  • Jonathan Widran

ANTHONY E. NELSON, JR., Swinging Sunset

Now that the legendary Hammond B-3 Jimmys – Smith and McGriff – and the premiere jazz organist of our generation, Joey DeFrancesco, have departed, fans of the versatile soul-stirring instrument that has animated churches and jazz bandstands for decades are no doubt looking for the next great force behind the keys and pedals to propel the tradition forward.

While veteran saxophonist Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. had been fascinated with the organ since seeing McGriff play at the Peppermint Lounge in Orange NJ in the 90s, his venture into the rarefied organ trio realm with his alternately exuberant and contemplative, wildly improvisational (and aptly titled) album Swinging Sunset ironically wasn’t part of some master career plan. Drummer Cecil Brooks III, who mentored Nelson back in high school, was in the NYC/Jersey area doing gigs and asked him to lay down some tracks with him.


They were joined in the studio by first call NYC B-3 player Kyle Kohler, whose compelling, emotionally intuitive playing here will quickly remind organ fans of the past two generations of the departed legends. This informal session quickly grew into Nelson’ fifth album, a rhythmically varied set that includes everything from a moody, meditational take on Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk” and the funky, wildly strutting romp through Stanley Turrentine’s “Minor Chant” (clearly an homage to Smith, who recorded it on Back To the Chicken Shack) to the slow burning gospel standard “Walk With Me” and originals that showcase Nelson’s skill with hipster bossa nova (“Uno Mas Por Robert’) and mid-tempo straight blues (“Last Call (for Gryce),” a tribute to famed Trenton saxman Tommy Gryce).


Testament to the organic, free-flowing passion Nelson, Kohler and Brooks brought to the session is the fact that they got so wrapped up on the joyful swinging energy of “Canadian Sunset” that they kept going on and on, necessitating an entirely new (albeit brief) track to capture the fullness of their extended outro (“One More Once”). Here’s hoping Swinging Sunset isn’t simply a one-time happy accident in Nelson’s discography, but the start of years of swinging the blues with these cats and any other blues-inclined artists who might strike his fancy.

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