Dan Fogel,
15 West
(Laughing Waters, 2006)

Joyous, straight-ahead organ grooves fill this fourth album from Dan Fogel and his quartet, featuring tenor sax work by Pete Chavez and O'Donel Levy on guitar. If you're a fan of jazz organ and Jimmy McGriff's swinging sounds, you'll find a lot to like here. Most of the tunes are extended workouts, letting the musicians play tag with one another, with Fogel's Hammond B-3 leading the way.

The big sounds of the Hammond B-3 give 15 West real excitement. There's a big-band feel to to the full-organ register, and Fogel's chording style is expressively large to match. The romper-stomper "Broadway," like the title implies, is a showy burst of feel-good riffing. Yet listen to the subtle color he brings to the solo on the ballad "I Thought About You" -- it's soulful, and swinging too.

Charlie Parker once quipped that jazz is "playing clean, and looking for the pretty notes." This live recording (the entire session was recorded with no overdubs, over three days in a 19th-century church) is certainly proof that Fogel and his group have taken Parker's advice to heart. The ensemble arrangements are clean and uncluttered; flat-out classics like "A Night in Tunesia" break into a series of cool, down-tempo solos after Fogel's opening chords and Chavez's tenor states the melody.

O'Donel Levy (a Groove Merchant Records veteran) gets to showcase his considerable talents on Kenny Burrell's "Blues After All," and really adds a light touch to Fogel's original "15 West." The beautiful ballad "Willow Weep for Me" is a 10-minute excursion into deep and bluesy grooves that allows plenty of room to move. It's a knockout.

Most of the album's nine tunes are upbeat romps, though, with everyone taking a swing including drummer Webb Thomas. As the liner notes by Nat Hentoff explain, this is music that will lift your spirits, "even if you think you don't know how to dance." That's pretty strong medicine, and a big promise. In the hands of Dan Fogel, it's also a lot of big fun.

[ visit Dan Fogel's website ]

review by
Mark Bromberg

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