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  Joey DeFrancesco

                 Joey DeFrancesco Plays Sinatra His Way  (High Note)


By Anne Farnsworth

     The latest release from Joey DeFrancesco, Grammy nominee and winner of Downbeat's 2003 Best Organist poll, is another offering in the burgeoning genre of themed CDs. This one is a collection of standards originally recorded by Frank Sinatra, rearranged for a quartet that features Houston Person on tenor saxophone.

     The Hammond B3 is an anachronism these days, but this band-in-a-box was once a staple of the rhythm and blues and lounge circuits. Not many players want to bother hauling its massive bulk to gigs, settling instead for the sampled sounds of a synthesizer when looking to inject a bluesy or retro note into a performance.

     DeFrancesco's organ evokes the lounge experience in its purest form. Not the ironic, 'Let's have a cosmo and play grownup' type of lounge now ubiquitous in every hipster neighborhood. This is old school; the dark den with dusty lamps hanging over worn banquettes. The kind of place where people go dig some cool jazz and be left alone.

     Still in his early 30's, DeFrancesco seems to be channeling the swinger ethos that was being supplanted by the rock era around the time he was born. The disc opens with a high-energy version of Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out Of You", but the bulk of the recording is a series of pleasantly laid back swing grooves. DeFrancesco kicks pedals like a master, exploiting the orchestral range that the Hammond offers. His duet with Person on "Angel Eyes" evokes the same despair and broken dreams of Sinatra's original, but even more haunting, the organ's reverb seeming to bounce plaintively around a half empty room at last call.

     There's nothing groundbreaking here, but in this case familiarity breeds content. DeFrancesco, with the help of Person's savvy and sensitivity, has created a smooth, sonic environment that will sooth the heart of an oldster and show the younger crowd what lounge culture was about - a refuge from the world outside where the martinis didn't come in colors.




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