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
“Live at Viva Cantana by organist Jocelyn Michelle is a lively groove-fest. Michelle’s Hammond B3 is the engine of this captivating sound celebration recorded live at Viva Cantina club in Burbank, California. The band is augmented by the talents of John Rack on guitar, Bill Noble on and Steve Mann on alto and tenor saxophones, Andrea Lindborg and Tony Farrell on trumpets, Sammy K on drums and percussion and Al Person on percussion. Vocalist Laura Dickinson provides wonderful vocals to a couple of tracks as well. The set is comprised of 4 of Michelle’s excellent original tunes and nicely covered works by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Burt Bacharach, Carl Perkins, Henry Mancini and Gato Barieri. It’s one party of an album that is thoroughly enjoyable recording.”
-The Jazz Page
“Jocelyn Michelle is an under-rated Hammond B3 player who performs mostly in Hawaii, and occasionally in the LA area too. “Live at Viva Cantina” is just her second album, and as the title would suggest, this record was recorded live at a Mexican restaurant and music venue in LA. Although this album is live, you will hear very little crowd noise and no clinking of glasses, and the production is quite clean, very much like a studio recording. For her choice of material, Jocelyn reprises some originals from here previous studio album, as well as some crowd pleasing covers too. This is a live restaurant gig, and the choice of tunes reflects that as they cover well known pop hits such as “One Note Samba”, The Pink Panther Theme”, “Groovin” and a few more in this vein. The real musical substance on here though can be found in Jocelyn’s originals, which are all excellent, and really this would have been a better album if they had leaned more in that direction.
Michelle has a rather large band assembled here with two saxophones and two trumpets in addition to a guitar, bass and drums rhythm section. The top soloist is probably Jocelyn herself, who provides punchy rhythmic riffs that stay tight in the pocket, somewhat similar to Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and Brian Auger. All the other soloists are good as well, with both saxophone players shining through with virtuoso RnB/jazz rides that can recall Grover Washington and Stanley Turrentine. This is a great CD for fans of current soul jazz, as well as people looking for a jazz album with more of an extroverted party vibe to it. With a fair amount of well known pop tunes on here, even non-jazz fans are apt to feel the groove.
As mentioned earlier, the preponderance of pop covers on here is understandable given that this is a live gig and Jocelyn and crew set out on purpose to record a ‘party’ album, but still, it would be great if Jocelyn would make an album of mostly originals, she is an excellent writer and really should think about utilizing those talents more.”
-Jazz Music Archives
“Playing a Hammond B3 organ while her husband contributes some hot jazz guitar licks, this album will keep you cool during those hot summer nights. You will love this collection of jazz standards and jazz versions of popular tunes. Definitely get this one!”
-Indie Music by Robert Leggett
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”
O’s Place Jazz Newsletter by D. Oscar Groomes
“Jocelyn is one of the few females mastering the Hammond B3. She assembles a fine band to join her latest endeavor. It is a collection of ten memorable tunes, mostly instrumentals with a couple of vocals notably “One Note Samba” featuring vocalist Laura Dickinson. Live at Viva Cantina! excited the audience and the recording captures all of the enthusiasm! Michelle has a unique style that resonates with a large audience. Look for her to be on the scene for a while!”