[JPL] Organ-Driven, With Unexpected Stops

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 20 10:07:34 EST 2007

December 20, 2007
Music Review
Organ-Driven, With Unexpected Stops 
The promise of Crescent Boogaloo, a small coterie of
all-stars at the Jazz Standard, announces itself up
front. There’s a lot of room for overlap between the
more groove-oriented music of New Orleans (a k a the
Crescent City) and the New York-based, 1960s-vintage
Latin-soul hybrid known as boogaloo (or bugalú). Put
those two styles in contact, with the right
ambassadors, and you might have something special. 

But the group’s first set on Tuesday night harbored no
traces of boogaloo, and the lone funk jam, halfway
through, felt Northeastern in origin. For that matter,
the two musicians onstage with roots in New Orleans,
the alto saxophonist Donald Harrison and the trumpeter
Nicholas Payton, often came across like guests at a

The host of that party — Dr. Lonnie Smith, a Hammond
B-3 organist who appeared some 40 years ago on
“Alligator Boogaloo,” a soul-jazz album by the alto
saxophonist Lou Donaldson — didn’t seem terribly
concerned by these matters. Regardless of what was
listed on the club calendar, he was going to do his

Time for some good news then: Dr. Smith is a bold and
charismatic stylist, and here he was working with the
guitarist Peter Bernstein, an experienced partner, and
the drummer Bill Stewart, a quick study with open ears
(and a lot of history with Mr. Bernstein). Together as
a rhythm section they pushed ahead with purpose and

The set opener was “Good Bait,” a Tadd Dameron tune,
and Dr. Smith set the gauge at a medium-easy tempo,
the standard gait of mid-Atlantic organ-trio protocol.
It was a casual, companionable sound, which partly
explained the level of chatter in the room. 

Mr. Payton and Mr. Harrison had no problems on this
turf or on Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo,” another bebop
standard that crisply closed the set. Their more
interesting statements, though, involved a modal waltz
by Dr. Smith called “Simone.” Mr. Payton explored the
theme with measured phrases, exhausting one idea
before adopting the next; his solo gave the impression
of searching a house, room by room. Mr. Harrison took
a more headlong approach, with hard gusts and fast
flurries, occasionally zipping through an exotic

Both soloists contributed solid work to the set’s funk
centerpiece, a vamp with a bridge, loosely based on
“Come Together,” the Lennon-McCartney song. But Dr.
Smith didn’t give them much to work with in terms of
melody, opting to indulge in some playful
vocalization. Eventually both Mr. Payton and Mr.
Harrison filed awkwardly off the stage. 

Later on, introducing the band, Dr. Smith botched Mr.
Harrison’s name. It was an honest mistake, quickly
rectified, but it felt offhandedly appropriate. One
hopes that Crescent Boogaloo, whatever the misleading
handle, finds more collaborative footing this week.

Performances continue through Sunday at the Jazz
Standard, 116 East 27th Street, Manhattan; (212)
576-2232, jazzstandard.net.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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