Chris Whiteman Organ Trio – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

For the most part, the Organ Trio has been a steadfast mainstay of small group Jazz since the early days of Wild Bill Davis back in the forties, resulting in some of the finest groupings of stellar players to date. Well it’s now time to add another Organ Trio group to that list: The Chris Whiteman Organ Trio!

If you don’t know already, Jazz Guitarist Chris Whiteman hails from the more mainstream side of Jazz. Cats like Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and others of that generation filter into Whiteman’s playing as a result of continual study and unremitting listening as he blends his own modern ideas – both single lines and comping – alongside an “old school” attitude that harkens back to a possibly simpler time when tone and taste were king!

Joining Chris on this session are two highly complementary players that share the same musical sensibilities as the leader: Jonah Kane-West on Organ and Aaron Binder on Drums. The music that this trio crafts is deliberate, joyous and playful as they each dig deep into their individual skill-sets to provide the requisite “muscle” necessary to follow in the footsteps of the great Organ Trios that came before them. It is my contention that they indeed do just that!

But don’t take just my word for it, check out the lively up-tempo “Jackrabbit” for confirmation if need be. A Rhythm Changes style tune written by Whiteman but could easily have been found in the books of Benny Goodman or Jimmy Smith…it’s that good! Whiteman, Kane-West and Binder each get to showcase their considerable chops throughout, along with some fun quoting during the trading fours segment near the end. A positively entertaining tune that should have you boppin’ your head to the pulse from beat one.

Speaking of chops, the gang gets to let ‘er rip on the rousing Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis blues, “Licks A Plenty” (the title says it all). This definitely brings me back to the Chicken Shack and then some! Special props to Kane-West for the wonderful Jimmy Smith inspired solo! Whiteman and Binder don’t disappoint either as they bring their A game to this lickity-split chart giving credence to the title!

The Trio slows it down a bit on Whiteman’s beautifully penned ballad “Autumn’s Fall” and the standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, where Whiteman opens the tune with a gorgeous chord-melody intro before warmly stating the head as Kane-West and Binder lay down parallel harmonic textures and unhurried swing. It is said that a great musician is measured by how well he or she plays on ballads. If that is indeed the case then the Chris Whiteman Organ Trio ranks quite high in my humble opinion.

Tempos pick up again on Kane-West’s Boppish “Granted” and the minor-blues swing of Binder’s “Sugar Kane” along with the Henderson/Dixon classic “Bye Bye Blackbird”, which opens the seven tracks on this wonderful CD nicely. Superbly played by all concerned!

So if you’re an Organ Trio fan, and student or connoisseur of fine Jazz Guitar playing, then check out the Chris Whiteman Organ Trio. They’re the real deal!

Oh…and as if Drummer Aaron Binder didn’t have enough on his plate with this session, he also recorded this CD live to tape with a 1960’s Nagra two track reel to reel field recorder. No wonder the sound of this album is so on point!

Please consider spreading the word about Chris and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this review amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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