Although we’re not able to attend live concerts while COVID-19 is the prevailing reality, it’s always a joy to be reminded of what a vibrant live ensemble sounds like. And as we bop, groove and hip sway along to the feisty and fiery, dripping with soul funk and swing collection Message from Groove and GW by the Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band, we can project ourselves literally experiencing it before our eyes in person hopefully someday soon.
The addendum beneath Ron Scott’s illuminating liner notes – which inform us, among other things, that this session marks the first time an organist (Schwartz) has “roared thru an entire big band album playing basslines on each track – reveals that the bandleader and his roaring, funked up, badass ensemble (Abel Mireles’ Jazz Exchange Orchestra) have this on their minds as well. We read: “In the midst of this horrific COVID-19 pandemic, Message from Groove & G.W. is the swinging groove we all need to help us through these uncertain times and beyond.” That groove is ably and inventively anchored by drummer David F. Gibson.
Conceptually, the high spirited hour long journey is grounded in reverence for organ great Richard “Groove” Holmes and, most particularly, his early 60s collaboration with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Sixty years later, the concept of organist doing the bass parts and soloing up a storm while leading a big band is as vibrant and timeless as ever. While peppered with a few jazz standards (a rambunctious, hipster spin on Coltrane’s “Blues Minor,” a slow sizzle through Mingus’ irrepressible “Work Song,”), the ten track set also includes originals by Mireles and Schwartz (seriously, dig the latter’s speed bop romp “Dig You Like Crazy”), jazzy arrangements of soul classics (Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t Now Way,” The Isley Brothers’ “Between The Sheets”) and the gently reflective closing rendition of Bach’s “Von Gott.”