Live: The Authorized Bootleg

Joey DeFrancesco

Concord, 2007

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Concord has been pretty good at sending me interesting jazz releases over the last two years, so every time a new one lands on my desk I'm always ready to give it a go. Given that Joey DeFrancesco made his mark playing the Hammond B-3 organ in jazz, and being a big fan of Keith Emerson, I was even more interested in how this would sound live.

The answer: amazing, for the most part. I'm an old-school jazz purist who prefers Coltrane and Davis to pretty much anything released after 1975, and DeFrancesco and his trio stick to that classic jazz mode. What makes the set shine is George Coleman on sax - he is clearly the star of the show, even getting his own introduction before the band rips into Ray Noble's "Cherokee."

And what a song! "Cherokee" is worth the price of admission alone. For nine minutes, the rhythm section does not let up, playing a kinetic beat that just seems to get faster and faster as Coleman and DeFrancesco's playing intensifies. Coleman gets in a sensuous minute-long solo to open the song and then mildly plays for a while, trying to keep up with drummer Byron Landham. DeFrancesco plays along on the keyboard for a little while until suddenly the sax drops out and the most lightning-quick organ leads ever heard on a jazz disc come to the fore. I've never heard another version of this song, but I don't think one would even compare, especially after those organ fills. This is amazing stuff.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Ceora" is a slower tune but manages to keep interest for most of its 14 minutes, though ending it after DeFrancesco's moody solo would have rendered the piece a little more intense and immediate while not sacrificing the mood. "I'm In the Mood For Love" further slows things down with a torch song, vocals courtesy of Colleen McNabb. It's a nice aside but not the reason for being here.

That reason is George Coleman, as it turns out, who turns in another stellar performance with "On Green Dolphin Street" as he reaches for modal heights and manages to bring cohesiveness to a solo that doesn't seem to have any. The music briefly stops and then gives way to DeFrancesco's solo, but it's not nearly as exciting or mandatory as Coleman's or as "Cherokee," surely one of the best jazz pieces we'll hear all year.

Five of the songs are longer than 10 minutes and suffer as a result, as the ideas are not typically long enough to fill the space. "Little Girl Blue" and "Autumn Leaves" close out the set and typify this feeling; both are standards but neither are truly compelling the way the other work is, although the latter half of "Leaves" recalls the excitement of "Cherokee" with a schizophrenic organ solo and some fantastic Landham drumming.

The performances are taken from a series of shows at Yoshi's in Oakland and combined into one, but unless one was actually at the shows they won't notice. The end result is one of the year's best jazz discs so far, not only in its immediate playing but in its recollection of the greats, making it everything contemporary jazz is not -- fresh, vital, exciting. Had the too-long cuts been trimmed and some other shorter pieces added, this may have been a modern classic.

Rating: B

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