Jocelyn was the winner of the Akademia Music Award for Best Instrumental / Jazz Album for here previous recording, ‘Time To Play’.
Gender in jazz has been the topic of many recent conversations. Why more women aren’t seated in many of our prestigious jazz bands across the country and why more women aren’t being recognized for their instrumental accomplishments are questions that more and more people are asking. Some women are aggressively trying to even the playing field and, when it comes to those who play jazz organ, one in particular is rapidly moving toward this goal.
Women have traditionally held their own in both the Gospel Organ and Jazz Organ arenas and Jocelyn Michelle is one example of a woman who not only plays jazz organ with the best of them but pushes forward in increasingly creative ways, as evidenced by this, her second recording from Chicken Coup Records.
Here, Jocelyn provides us with ten entertaining tracks gathered from a live performance featuring herself on organ; her husband, John Rack, on guitar and her usual drummer, ‘Slammin’ Sammy K. A quintet format is maintained throughout this performance with several horn and brass players periodically stepping up to the front line. These players include trumpeters, Andrea Lindborg and Tony Farrell and saxophonists Bill Noble and Steve Mann. Two tracks showcase the vocalist Laura Dickinson thus adding yet another dimension to this recording.
Live recordings are often challenging to bring into the commercial market for a variety of reasons but, somehow, Jocelyn has been able to create an appealing live date utilizing the wizardry of studio technicians and giving us a tight yet lively sound. A Sister’s Loveis one of four original tunes in this song list which reveals the flow of this band with its soothing motion and rhythmic feel. The alto saxophone voice is showcased in a most danceable manner.
Jocelyn then takes a second go (this time live) at the second original, Englewood Cliffs. Her solos are energetic and filled with movement that builds with shifts in dynamics and registrations. John Rack’s guitar accompanies her in a punctuating style and the tenor saxophone voice takes us through this most lyrical track – always swinging – and into an extended drum solo. Groove Yardis an old and familiar tune for many of us. This version has plenty of soul and just the right amount of seasoning with its laid-back groove and homegrown feel. Here we hear the trumpet voice for the first time on the date which adds a new sparkle and its own joyful registration. A perfect follow-up is Jocelyn’s take on Groovin’with its mellow time and tenor/organ interplay. Reminiscent of the Booker T/Felix Cavaliere renditions, this one, never the less, belongs to Jocelyn and her Hammond stylings. A more hard-driving, pulsating feel is present in her Last Tango in Pariswhich seems to take us with it as if to a far-away place. It’s a rhythmic course with seemingly no end to its visceral content. The reeds and brass meet comfortably while Jocelyn handles space and rhythm beautifully on this jazz classic.
Returning to her original work, Jocelyn brings vocalist Laura Dickinson to the microphone for Oh No, I Could Be in Lovefollowed by the popular One Note Samba. Laura’s gentle delivery and shifts in intonation make her story-telling style almost mesmerizing. Jocelyn then proceeds to further develop each story with lush chord changes and purposeful fingering. Her notes are her words as riffs become her phrases. To our delight, percussion becomes most important in this bossa nova rhythm. The final original may be familiar to those of us who have followed Jocelyn’s recording career: Sylvia’s Songgives guitarist John Rack space to move in almost an R & B manner with a bit of a rockish beat. Jocelyn takes a big bite out of this track with a driving groove made up of formidable lines. Tenor saxophone lines, too, are powerful; going up one side of this tune and down the other. Reconstructing popular tunes and creating new arrangements for songs that we know and love lead us, inevitably, to a better appreciation of them. Jocelyn’s reworking of the Bacharach classic, Look of Loveis one such example. Once again, she shows us her confidence at the console of the Hammond organ and collaboration with husband John on guitar. As an opening track or closing tune, the Theme from the Pink Pantherprovides a win/win situation. Jocelyn and her bandmates spike our attention; giving us a thrilling take of this Mancini gem. The entire band contributes to this track and Jocelyn definitely brings her bag of tricks and riffs to the party. This one is one to remember and one that encapsulates the thrill of Jocelyn Michelle on her journey to even-ing the jazz organ playing field and beyond.
-Pete Fallico/KCSM ‘The Bay Area’s Jazz Station’Jocelyn Michelle – Organ
“JOCELYN MICHELLE/Live at Viva Cantina: Working the cool side of B3, this organ ace takes it to a live stomping ground to let the vibes fly. With a tasty set card heavy on grooving and some hand picked jazzbo that did more than just show up for a check in the background, B3 fans will know right away this is a treat to behold. Tasty and tasteful throughout, this set brings it hard.”
“Let’s start with a full disclosure as I experience the enthusiastic energy that comes from listening to a collection as fun, frolicsome, musically and harmonically inventive and jamming as Jocelyn Michelle’s new Live at Viva Cantina. I’m a closet organ junkie who can’t get enough of the Hammond B-3, whether I’m groovin’ to Booker T, Keith Emerson and Billy Preston or Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco. Not since I was blown away by German organist Barbara Dennerlein in the early 90s have I been this whipped up into a frenzy by a female master of this classic instrument.
Alternating soulful lead melodies, brisk harmony lines and blistering solos, Michelle leads a lively band of musicians from her former home of L.A. and current residence on Hawaii’s Big Island – including saxophonists Bill Noble and Steve Mann, trumpeters Andrea Lindborg and Tony Farrell and her husband, electric guitarist John Rack.
With a foundation of six tracks from her previous studio album Time to Play, the organist swings and simmers through fresh, vibrant arrangements of oft-heard pop classics (“Last Tango in Paris,” “The Pink Panther Theme,” “The Look of Love,” “Groovin’,” “One Note Samba”) and four compelling originals, including the feisty ten minute homage to legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder “Englewood Cliffs” and the delightfully breezy “Oh No, Could I Be In Love,” sung with grace and vulnerability by guest vocalist Laura Dickinson.
Normally, one might not think of a Mexican restaurant in Burbank (now called Viva Rancho Cantina) as a hotspot for burning jazz, but Jocelyn Michelle and company turned it into one that one magical night.”
-JONATHAN WIDRAN, The JW Vibe
John Rack – Guitar
Bill Noble – Alto and Tenor Saxophone
Steve Mann – Alto and Tenor Saxophone
Andrea Lindborg – Trumpet
Tony Farrell – Trumpet
Sammy K – Drums and Percussion
Al Person – Percussion
Laura Dickinson – Vocals on “Oh No, Could I Be in Love” and “One Note Samba”