Jocelyn was the winner of the Akademia Music Award for Best Instrumental / Jazz Album for ‘Time To Play’.
A student of Hammond B3 legend Tony Monaco, Jocelyn Michelle’s debut recording is on fire with elements of Monaco’s craft as well as special touches that only she can give! This is an extremely well-done B3-centered recording that’ll leave the listener with eyebrows raised!
Jocelyn Michelle: organ, piano
John Rack, Bruce Forman: guitar
Doug Webb, Steve Mann: sax
Stan Martin, Andrea Lindborg: trumpet
Sammy K, Brad Dutz: percussion
Gina Saputo, Regina Leonard Smyth: vocals
Englewood Cliffs • Sylvia’s Song • Trouble Man • A Sister’s Love • The Pink Panther Theme • Last Tango in Paris • Oh No, Could I Be in Love • Sunnier Days • Never Let Me Go • The Loss
JAZZTIMES ON-LINE Review, June 2016
Jocelyn Michelle Declares “It’s Time to Play!”
And play she does!
When I think of great Hammond B-3 players, I think of Joey DeFrancesco and George Colligan. Now a new player emerges on the organ scene in the person of Jocelyn Michelle. Taken under the wing of Tony Monaco’s Chicken Coop Records label, Michelle studied with Monaco for years and has now released her debut album, Time to Play! (Chicken Coop Records CCP7024).
Joining her are husband John Rack and Bruce Forman on guitar, Doug Webb and Steve Mann on saxophones, Stan Martin and Andrea Lindborg on trumpet, Sammy K on drums, Brad Dutz on percussion and Gina Saputo and Regina Leonard Smyth on vocals (one track each). Jocelyn wrote six original pieces and arranged four others for her first album as a leader.
She began with piano lessons as a child but found herself influenced by rock keyboardists like Rod Argent, Keith Emerson and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord. Emerson, especially, was known for his Jazzy twists. Knowing that, you hear snatches of them all in her approach and even in her writing. Listen for a nod and a wink to Carlos Santana, too.
The album opens with her original, Englewood Cliffs. Doug Webb’s alto sax makes and early appearance and Bruce Forman gets an early guitar solo that he makes pay off. Forman has always been a fine contributor to any project and this is no exception. Webb’s solo is strong and sets up the trumpet of Stan Martin.
It’s at the half-way mark that Jocelyn herself takes the solo we’ve been waiting to hear. You hear a lick of Argent that brings a big smile to any fan of late 60s-early 70s keyboard rock. It is a great influence and plays well in Jazz.
Pay attention to Sammy K on drums. He’s been a long-time collaborator with Jocelyn and he is clearly comfortable with his role here.
Another original, Sylvia’s Song, follows. Steve Mann on tenor sax gets out of the gate first and creates a warm and masterful solo. I like his approach to a solo and to interacting with the rest of the band. John Rack, Jocelyn’s husband, contributes fine moments on guitar, as does Jocelyn.
It is, of course and always, on the B-3 that Jocelyn expresses herself best. There is a measure or two scattered throughout the piece that you feel like you’re back at Woodstock listening to Santana’s Soul Sacrifice. That not a complaint! It is that she has incorporated her influences extremely well.
Between Jocelyn, Rack, Mann and Sammy K, this one just lights it up.
Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man opens with a splendid trumpet solo by Andrea Lindborg. Doug Webb takes over on the tenor sax and within a measure or two, you know what this song is without referencing the track listing.
Jocelyn’s interpretive approach is right on. She takes on the vocal lines and creates the same magic that Marvin did. And you have to give credit to Webb for his gorgeous lines. Sorry to hear this one end.
Jocelyn’s original, A Sister’s Love, cooks from the start. Steve Mann switches to alto sax for this and it is lovely. Jocelyn’s work is spacious, making so much room for Mann to give full rein to what he expresses. Bruce Forman also contributes a bouncy and buoyant guitar to the joyful work. The most light-hearted of all is Jocelyn’s organ. Fantastic writing and arranging. Loved this track.
Oh No, Could I Be in Love is also a Jocelyn original. Gina Saputo is the vocalist and she treats the bossa tune sweetly. Sammy K turns in amazing brush work and Bruce Forman comes around again on guitar. Limited to B-3, guitar, drums and vocals, the lean line-up is perfect for what Jocelyn presents. Saputo’s vocals are plaintive and persuasive and Forman and Sammy K are in fine support.
The Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini is always a bit to make anyone smile. A 7-year old neighborhood came by while it was playing and she immediately recognized it and said how much she loved it.
It is delivered beautifully by Jocelyn and by Stan Martin on trumpet. John Rack takes the guitar duties on this one and Doug Webb is back on tenor sax. It is fun and mischievous; the way it is supposed to be.
Gato Barbieri’s Last Tango in Paris is an extraordinary piece. Jocelyn turns it loose under the powerful strokes of Doug Webb’s tenor sax and the cool groove from Sammy K and Jocelyn herself. Forman turns in a pointed guitar solo with his fine phrasing. Jocelyn’s solo is so fine. She moves from refined to raw and back again. A wonderful restatement of Barbieri’s original.
Sunnier Days is a Jocelyn original, opening with the B-3 and Forman’s guitar. The fun erupts as Webb and Mann both play the tenor sax together then in trade. Sammy K and Jocelyn’s bass pedals fashion a fine groove that Stan Martin joins on trumpet.
Everyone gets a hot spot on this track. It is a rollicking good time for all, especially the listener.
Never Let Me Go is the Jay Livingston and Ray Evans classic. Jocelyn creates a lush backdrop with Sammy K’s brushes in attendance. The trio is completed with Bruce Forman contributing his sterling guitar work. The trio creates a soulful and moving performance of longing and desire. Sweet.
Jocelyn’s The Loss closes the album. Jocelyn moves to the piano in accompaniment to Regina Leonard Smyth’s vocals. The Gospel piece is also joined by John Rack who adds a further dimension to the soulful expression. Jocelyn’s organ work fleshes out the church imagery for the closing moments of the album.
Time to Play! is a remarkable album for any fan of the Hammond B-3 but it is a stunning album for a debut. Jocelyn Michelle has composed works of beauty and intelligence for her first outing as a leader and the artists she has gathered are extraordinary. She has created an album truly worth hearing, again and again.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
Jocelyn Michelle is a skilled jazz organist who is based in Hawaii. Her style is sometimes a bit reminiscent of Charles Earland in the 1970s. Like Earland, she has the ability to turn a wide variety of material, whether funky originals, pop songs or even bossa-novas into soulful and swinging jazz.
For this set of six of her originals and four standards from various sources (including “The Pink Panther Theme” and “Last Tango In Paris”), the organist is joined by either her husband John Rack or Bruce Forman on guitar, tenor-saxophonist Doug Webb or Steve Mann (on tenor or alto), trumpeter Stan Martin, drummer Sammy K. and sometimes percussionist Brad Dutz. Gino Saputo and Regina Leonard Smyth take a vocal apiece but the focus is mostly on Michelle and the instrumentalists.
Stan Martin, the guitarists and Doug Webb take several fine solos along the way as does Steve Mann, a local legend who is long overdue to put out a CD of his own. As for Jocelyn Michelle, she has a timeless style that will greatly appeal to lovers of the Hammond B3. Time To Play (available from www.summitrecords.com ) is an excellent sampling of her artistry.
DOWNBEAT ON-LINE Review, August 2016
Album Review: Jocelyn Michelle’s Time To Play!
Time To Play!
Chicken Coup Records
★ ★ ★ ★½
The woman with two first names makes an impressive entrance into the exclusive group of female Hammond B-3 organ players.
For the uninitiated, the Hammond B-3 organ is a mammoth, daunting electric piano—nicknamed the “monster” or the “beast” by some—with two keyboards (called registers) and several foot pedals.
Throughout jazz history, numerous jazz musicians have taken to this soulful instrument, from the late master Jimmy Smith to today’s heavyweights of Joey DeFrancesco, Tony Monaco, and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
The B-3 is more like a house pet in Michelle’s hands. But it’s not a knock on Michelle that she gets mellow and melodic tones from this colossal instrument—a deep, rich sound, like a good, well-played church organ. She and seven musicians and two vocalists deliver a polished, engaging album.
The flame is low for much of the set, but there’s just enough of a straightahead feel to appeal to jazz and B-3 fans alike. Special kudos to guitarist Bruce Foreman and drummer Sammy K.
Briefly, Michelle is from Florida and lives in Hawaii. She began playing piano at age 7, but wasn’t attracted to it. She did dig her mother’s jazz collection, which included some organ, but it was the discovery of a slew of rock organists that excited her most.
Ah, but what about jazz? She took online instructions from Monaco, and as her confidence grew she was on her way. For her debut, Michelle’s song choices are, in her words, all over the map—six originals and four covers. Each of the covers is special.
Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” is given a soulful reading; a cover of Henry Mancini’s delightful “Pink Panther Theme” captures the humor well; and there is a backbeat version of passionate Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri’s “Last Tango In Paris” featuring tenor saxophonist Doug Webb.
Finally, the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans love song “Never Let Me Go” is Michelle’s most fully realized, most moving performance. It’s a perfect finish to the album.
Time To Play!: Englewood Cliffs; Sylvia’s Song; Trouble Man; A Sister’s Love; The Pink Panther Theme; Last Tango in Paris; Oh No, Could I Be in Love; Sunnier Days; Never Let Me Go; The Loss. (70:26)
Personnel: Jocelyn Michelle, organ, piano; John Rack, Bruce Forman, guitar; Doug Webb, Steve Mann, saxophones; Stan Martin, Andrea Lindborg, trumpets; Sammy K, Brad Dutz, percussion; Gina Saputo, Regina Leonard Smyth, vocals.
One might think your debut would find the lead artist taking most of the solos, but Jocelyn’s strength abides in how she team plays while driving and powering a full blown cast featuring Doug Webb and Steve Mann on sax and guitarist Bruce Forman, among others. Each player’s versatile confidence is welcome to Jocelyn’s party and the results are far more than competent: The Santana-like “Sylvia’s Song,” the cocktail bounce of “The Pink Panther Theme,” and the silky foreboding of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man.”
– Mike Jurkovic, Elmore Magazine
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