Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Paul Moran's Smokin' B3--Vol. 2 Still Smokin'

Reviewing the Dave Askren and Jeff Benedict CD earlier today made me instantly think of Paul Moran's new CD, and how both recordings have so much in common. Both are mellow, smooth and cool. Both prominently feature the Hammond B3 organ. Both contain covers of The Beatles' "Come Together." If these two albums were films, they'd make a great double feature.

Paul Moran is known for being Van Morrison's musical director for many years and playing keyboards and brass on many of Morrison's albums. The liner notes hint at the idea of what kind of music Moran, or any other longtime professional musician, might make when left to his own devices. The answer is decidedly NOT Morrison-like. Moran, who is based in London, is the proverbial jazzman, someone who wants to pay tribute to a wide spectrum of influence that includes Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and even Rodgers & Hart.

Moran's B3 work is remarkable. He can coax those long notes into profound statements of love and desire, or his fingers can fly quickly up and down the keyboard and barely trigger those little puffs of air that can be so expressive on their own. He's the kind of performer who makes you sit up and say dammit, I love the B3 and the waves of nostalgia it summons with ease. He's also wise enough to surround himself with a game collection of fellow musicians such as guitarist Nigel Price, bassist Laurence Cottle, drummer Mez Clough and many others.

Compared to the Askren/Benedict disc, this has a bit more energy and a wider range of moods. The R&B classic "Have You Seen Her" is lush and romantic and almost sexy, despite a theme sunk deeply into having the blues. Moran's own "Scallywag" sounds like a lost hit from The Ventures with its slow, barely evolving melody and relaxed tempo. The band can also inject plenty of energy into these performances--I think Moran's version of "Come Together" has a little more zip than Askren and Benedict. If you have a free afternoon or evening, I strongly suggest listening to both CDs one after the other. It'll put you into that aforementioned "jazz mood," whatever that is.

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