I have had the pleasure of reviewing some impressive debut from artists that cover a broad spectrum of jazz and hit just about every sub genre known to man. Carmen Intorre Jr. goes from impressive to exceptional about :30 seconds into his debut release. I realize some of you may be saying who? Intorre is no newbie having worked successfully as a sideman for the great Pat Martino for years. For The Soul is an ironically apt title for a release that gives you a nice taste of jazz, funk and soul. For the skeptic raising questions on musical credibility the list of guests include guitarist John Hart, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and two organ heavyweights in Pat Bianchi and Joey Defrancesco. Bob Belden handles the production work and allows Intorre to do his thing as an exciting young drummer capable of developing unique textures and rhythmic underpinnings that help establish Intorre as one of the more impressive lyrical drummers that swings like a beast.
From a purely musical standpoint this release is money with everyone spot on and the all the stars were in perfect alignment as Intorre runs through a set that includes Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and Chick Corea. The most impressive and infectious part of this release is the attitude of Intorre. While reviewing the press release Intorre states, "Music is an opportunity for me to give up my soul, while in the process of connecting with the audience to feel uplifted after a performance, to feel great about themselves through the experience that they encountered. That is what For The Soul is all about.
Carmen Intorre Jr. gets it as jazz played in this most natural and organic of states is the original soul food!
There are all most too many high points to list but allow me to try to get you started. "Too High" is a high octane smoker. Take a back beat and add the funk infused back beat of organ phenom Pat Bianchi along with tast comp work from Hart and this is a groove taken to the next level. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon clearly shows why he took home the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition in 2008. One of the most intriguing tunes captured on For The Soul is Gene Perla's "Tergiversation" which is a rarely performed gem featuring Bianchi and Joey DeFrancesco on an organ summit meeting where no quarter is given by either as they trade fours with Intorre's finesse acting as the sonic glue to bind this harmonic exploratory together. Another delight yet oddly different tune is the Steely Dan cover of "Josie." While there is a slight re-harmonization of the melody the end result is a sonic adventure of the road less traveled. Intorre places his own indelible stamp on this rock classic with the help of Hart and does not push the envelope of creativity here - it goes out certified mail! To do a re-harmonization on a tune like "Josie" is a huge roll of the musical dice and to work the tune without a harmonic net is the sign of a true artist. A more accessible avant garde spin on a timeless classic. A personal favorite of mine closes the disc, Joe Zawinul's "Black Market" is a deceptively subtle funk infused flavor that again showcases Intorre's ability to transform the accepted norm to something that exceeds the mundane. Every one expects a critic to always have something negative to say, much like the term smooth jazz there is an overuse and unfair negative connotation that comes along with the word critic as used in this context. As a jazz advocate, I can say with a high degree of certainty that less than half a dozen artists working today could pull off a release this well and then only half of those artists could do it with the real understanding of the audience connectivity as was so eloquently stated by Intorre.
Easily on my year end best of list. Possibly my favorite release of the year thus far!
5 Huge Stars!
Tracks: Too High; Tergeversation; Carmen's Caddie; Cannonball; Steps; Only One; Good For The Soul; Gibraltar; Josie; Black Market.
Personnel: Carmen Intorre Jr.: drums, percussion; John Hart: guitar; Jon Irabagon: tenor & alto saxophone; Pat Bianchi: organ & keyboards; Joey DeFrancesco: Numa Organ.