Matthew Kaminski Swings At Churchill Grounds

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LIVE AT CHURCHILL GROUNDS / WILSON/KENNEDY/ALMER: Sail On, Sailor. DONALDSON: Hot Dog. SMITH: Midnight Special. SHAPIRO/CAMPBELL/CONNELLY: If I Had You*. JOBIM/DE MORAES: So Danco Samba*. ELLINGTON/GAINES: Just Squeeze Me*. ELLINGTON/HODGES: It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream*. DUKE/HARBURG: April in Paris*. LEE/SCHLUGER: I Love Being Here With You*. McDUFF: A Real Goodun’ / The Matthew Kaminski Quartet: Kaminski, Hammond SK2 org; Will Scruggs, t-sax; Rod Harris Jr., gtr; Chris Burroughs, dm; *Kimberly Gordon, voc / Chicken Coop CCP-7026 (live: Atlanta, September 26-27, 2015)

As John Cleese used to say, “And now for something completely different.” Matthew Kaminski is both a jazz musician and—believe it or not—the ballpark organist for the Atlanta Braves. This is his third CD on the Chicken Coop label, recorded live at Atlanta’s premier jazz club, Churchill Grounds.

Possibly because of the live setting, Kaminski really flies here, playing with zest and fire on every single track. His style reminded me a great deal of Jack McDuff, who he pays tribute to on the last track, A Real Goodun’, with a dollop of Jimmy Smith, who he pays tribute to with Midnight Special. Interestingly, having listened to this disc shortly after reviewing Alyssa Allgood’s Blue Note-tribute album Out of the Blue, I felt this set was even closer to the spirit and drive of those old Blue Note albums. As BN founder Alfred Lion used to say, “it must schwing!” And “schwing” this most certainly does.

The Blue Note funk style is all over this album like a set of etched-in-glass fingerprints. Listen, for instance, not only to the opening track but also Lou Donaldson’s funky Hot Dog, which the band attacks with brio. Will Scruggs’ tenor solo could easily be confised for any number of similar solos on the old Blue Note recordings, almost dominating the quartet here. Ironically, on this track drummer Chris Burroughs sounds as if he is stuck in a foursquarfe slam-bam rhythm, which even remains steady-but-stiff when Kaminski enters. His solo is also rather unvaried. On the other hand, Smith’s Midnight Special really cooks.

The set takes a different turn when voalist Kimberly Gordon enters the scene. Gordon, who has a rather overript vibrato, is a pleasant enough jazz singer who swings a bit, but I personally found her a bit of a distraction from the excellent playing of Kaminski and his group. In a live setting she was possibly more interesting, but to my ears she was quite ordinary whereas Kaminski was consistently more interesting. I did, however, like the tenor sax solo on It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream, a little-known Duke Ellington song, very much. On April in Paris, it is the leader whose playing is so rich and full of ideas that he dominates the proceedings (ending the tune with the old Count Basie band’s tease-and-repeat trick).

Gordon is at her best on I Love Being Here With You. Here, her voice is fully warmed up, the slow-beat vibrato is minimized, she scats brilliantly and with a lot of guts. This, in turn, seems to inspire Kaminski to even finer playing, as he follows her scat vocal with one of his most felicitous solos. Even drummer Burroughs loosens up on this one!

The album wraps up with A Real Goodun’. again taken at that slow-gloove Blue Note sort of tempo. There’s a lot of space in this performance, which considerably helps loosen up Burroughs’ beat, which in turn brings a looser feeling to the whole ensemble. Rod Harris Jr. plays some really fine guitar on this one, too; it’s the kind of track that, as we used to say in the old days, really “cooks.”

All in all, then, this is a fine lazy-summer-Sunday-afternoon kind of jazz record, the kind you play when you say to yourself, “You know, I think I’d like to hear something completely different”…which brings us full circle back to the beginning.

—© 2016 Lynn René Bayley

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