Saturday, August 20, 2016

Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing – Skronky Tonk | Album Review

Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing – Skronky Tonk

EllerSoul Records

13 tracks / 59:35

Little Charlie Baty made his name as a bluesman, playing his guitar with Alligator Records’ Little Charlie and the Nightcats, and later on with the Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue. But this Californian has been waiting to release an album that would allow him to express his love of swing jazz, and twice before he had albums ready to go and things just did not work out. Well, the third time the stars aligned for him, and Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing has released Skronky Tonk on EllerSoul Records; it is thirteen tracks of originals, standards, and a few things that are just a little bit different.

Organ Grinder Swing is an organ jazz trio, with Baty on the guitar, J. Hansen on drums, and Lorenzo Farrell on the Hammond organ. The legendary Kid Anderson recorded this album in January of last year at San Jose’s Greaseland Studios, though it was not released until this spring. Anderson came through once again (like he always does), and Skronky Tonk is a very well recorded disc with a clean sound and fabulous mixing.

The set kicks off with the original title track, and this upbeat jazzy blues tune is simple yet satisfying. Farrell does a fine job of filling in the bass parts with the organ, and Little Charlie is in fine form on guitar – he has a naturally flowing jazz style that is very listenable. Baty also wrote “Cobalt Blues” and “Gerontology,” and the latter gives Hansen the opportunity to shine on the drums.

Organ Grinder Swing also takes on a nice collection of classics and standards, including “How High the Moon” and Little Charlie does a very respectable job with this Les Paul classic. His tone on “Pennies from Heaven” is slightly dirty, giving the song a new feel. And “Misty” is tight with a cool Hammond lead that gives it a kitschy vintage feel, in a good way.

From the “stuff that is just a little bit different” department, there is “Receita de Samba” which features a cool Latin beat on the snare and a catchy melody from Baty’s guitar. This theme carries over to “Nuages” which was written by Django Reinhardt, and it's the first of a pair of tributes to the legendary guitarist. The other is “Django,” which was written by jazzman John Lewis and it is surprising that the organ carries the melody for the introduction, but things are put right fairly quickly as the guitar takes the lead, with some cymbal heavy jazz drumming from J. Hansen.

Skronky Tonk is a labor of love and it is awesome that Little Charlie and Organ Grinder Swing were finally able to make it available to the masses. Big thanks should go out to Watkins Ellerson of EllerSoul, who helped make this project come to fruition. Jazz is not always the most accessible form of music, but this trio’s take on it is really cool and you should give it a listen to see if it is your cup of tea. Chances are good that it will be!

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