A lot of kids get interested in music. Some of those even get so interested they might take up something other than rock ‘n’ roll…like jazz. And, some of those might get so enamored they embrace an instrument; saxophone, piano, guitar, usually something that will let their urge to be an out front star out to play. But when a young person embraces a ‘vintage’ instrument; an instrument that rarely these days translates from one genre to another, it’s a rare day indeed. Then when he masters it, grabs the attention of acknowledged masters of that instrument like 16 year old Kevin Coelho has with the Hammond B3 Organ and his personal “Yoda”, renowned master of the B3: Tony Monaco well, fans sit up and take notice.
I have to admit that I was skeptical. Jazz Organ was the instrument that first hooked me into being a jazz fan when I was very young. It started with my mothers love of Ray Charles. Along side of being great piano player, Brother Ray on occasion played the organ and it was on one of mom’s Ray Charles albums way back in the early 60s that I first heard the organ in pop music. The tune was “Chitlins and Candied Yams” , an instrumental.
From there I searched out jazz organ - first Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and others. Then I started noticing the instrument in rock ‘n’ roll, especially Booker T, Stevie Winwood with The Spenser Davis Group, Alan Price with The Animals. Eventually, I was to learn that the Hammond B3 Organ was to organs what champagne was to wine. The best of the best, the Steinway of the organ class.
When I first heard tell of Kevin Coelho and he was being expounded as the new genius of the B3, I admit, my attitude was a bit “show me”. So, I asked Jon and Braithwaite & Katz, the great jazz PR group that rarely steers me wrong, to send it along.
First thing I did when the CD arrived, naturally, was to peruse the track list. The kid’s ambitious, I thought to myself and may have even mentioned to the cat, goo Goo Barabajangle, who’s an especially hard jazz critic, being a finicky Persian; Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" and Herbie Hancock's soul-jazz smash "Cantaloupe Island.", Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Play It Back”, the Miles Davis bop classic "Donna Lee". These are the Organ jazz Mecca tunes. Then, I looked for the supporting players. You need some strong cats to ride with Organ jazz. And he got ‘em; Tony Monaco, who not only helmed the sessions but also lent Coelho the players from his hot touring trio: guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson. Okay, he should b at least passable with these experienced organ trio cats on the session.
So, I put it on. I was intrigued by the first track which also lends its name to the CD. “Funkengruven” is just that, a funky groove tune and an original composition. His left hand bass is very impressive. Coelho describes his "Funkengruven" title tune as "a riff blues over a set of non-standard changes, something that's funky and grooving but also swings. Those are tricky things to reconcile, funk and swing, not a lot of players can do it.
Next up was Herbie Hancock’s masterpiece “Cantaloupe Island”. Turns out that Coelho is a classically trained pianist and really studied this piece. He turns it into a funk tune by changing the beat and putting a James Brown bass lines underneath , then did some arranging on the chords at the end, and voilà, he has managed to make the tune his own. I was more than impressed.
“Dock Of The bay’ is faithfully rendered as the smooth, mellow R&B and shows Coelho’s ability to not just swing some funky jazz, but to tackle a soulful pop tune. He gets some great help on the guitar from DiCenzo throughout and Reggie Jackson can drive the beat with the best of them. Jackson’s trips around the skins in the title track are so damn smooth, you have to wonder how he did it. Jackson is "a human metronome, his time beyond solid," says Coelho. He’s intense to and takes the music to the highest possible energy level.
“It's all about soul and energy”
There are a couple of tracks included that are written by Randy Masters who may not be a household name, even among jazz players, but he is one of the finest trumpeter-composer and theoretician’s out there. He’s also Coelho’s prime teacher. The two compositions are “Take A Stand”, a bluesy slow tune that’ll make you want to take your partner across the floor. Then there is the hidden gem of the album, another Master’s composition, “Chagalu”, it’s a Latin jazz tune that allows Coelho to further show off that he is no one trick pony. It’s got a hook and is so catchy, it’ll be right at home on the radio. I can see this one taking off on not just the jazz stations but crossing over to other formats. "Randy is an incredible composer - his pieces are deeply musical and playable, with wonderful lines," Coelho says.
Coelho’s own "McJimmy" is another song that lets the young organist explore yet one more subgenre of the organ jazz arena. It's a homage to the uplifting gospel sound of B3 idol Jimmy McGriff.
One of my absolute favorites is Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Play It Back” which really allows Coelho to stretch out and display his virtuoso talents both hands are amazing in his dexterity and touch. Then, too, he displays his “old soul”, digs way into the pocket, where the B3 really shines at creating tension in all the right spots and allow the tune to just drip in soul.
Kevin Coelho is the sort of teenage phenom that the Hammond B3 organ hasn’t seen in decades. He has already studied an enormous amount and has a great grasp of what and how he wants to play. His arrangements are ingeniously funky, deeply soulful, swing in all the sweet spots and make you forget, continuously that you are listening to a kid that is barely old enough to drive, but drive the B3 with the best of them.
Kevin is poised to be the B3 master of his generation. He’s got the talent. he’s got the vision and he’s got the right ‘guru’s’. "I'm still developing my own sound, of course. I'm concentrating on trying to re-create in my own way the soul and energy of those old records I love”, Coelho says.
Along with Randy Masters and Tony Monaco, his jazz teachers include noted Bay Area Hammond B3 player Wil Blades. The young musician has also had master classes with Larry Goldings and Bennett Paster, among others. In 2010, Coelho attended and performed at the Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz program as a rare freshman to be admitted. He has participated in and performed at the Stanford Jazz Workshop for the past five years, winning the Outstanding Soloist award multiple times as well as being honored with the prestigious Shape of Jazz to Come award. With his group The Groove Messengers, Coelho performed at the 2011 San Jose Jazz Festival, and he also played the 2011 Stanford Jazz Festival, as well as at clubs and corporate events across the country in groups with such professional musicians as Charles McCarthy, Akira Tana, Jason Lewis, James Witzel, Ray Scott and Rob Gibson, among others. Coelho attends Los Altos High School in California, where he is a straight-A student.
- Audio CD (July 10, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012 Number of Discs: 1 Label: ALLEGRO CHICKEN COUP ASIN: B0087OULDM Review Copy Courtesy of Braithwaite & Katz, Jon Muchin
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved