Available June 19th on Rhythm Royale Records
In the day of the digital download I may not necessarily be rushing the review as more people are using a variety of platforms that make the traditional street date somewhat a thing of the past. As a critic I am a man of simple tastes and nothing hits my musical sweet spot like the Hammond B-3 organ groups from roughly forty years ago. Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Larry Young to name but a few and now drummer/composer Towner Galaher has put together an all star band to do his own riff on the organ groups except with a quintet as opposed to the more traditional trio ensemble.
Uptown adds a unique burst of flavor by turning this ensemble into an organ plus three horns and the execution is on point every step of the way. The front line of horns includes Grammy winning trumpeter Brian Lynch along with the great Donald Harrison and tenor saxophonist Craig Handy. Sound good? Add B-3 phenom Pat Bianchi and then the lyrical swing of Galaher and to call the release a smoker would be the classic undersell. A particular favorite tune would be "Shuffleocity" which is simply post bop swing on steroids. Much the same could be said of the title track "Uptown" which finds Bianchi digging far deeper than most B-3 players would dare to go and this is the key to why this release works so well. Execution. Another key element of success is the recording has a nice warm open sound somewhat reminiscent of early Blue Note records. The ability to bring swagger to swing is meaningless if the end result dies a sonic death by compression in post production.
While the release finds 6 Galaher originals, Uptown serves up some classics such as Wayne Shorter's "House of Jade" and McCoy Tyner's "Blues On The Corner." The ability to bring finesse to the table is showcased with Galaher's brushwork on the Wayne Shorter tune "Tell It Like It Is." Donald Harrison shines on this Shorter tune as well and may perhaps be the most underrated alto player on the scene today. Lynch and Handy turn in stellar solos while Galaher doesn't just ride the groove - he is the groove! Instead of turning into a self indulgent bash fest Galaher pushes the music center stage and there is that working band chemistry and feel so often missing from a great deal of post bop releases from larger ensembles. The Galaher tune "Cafe Con Samba" is another killer tune with a nice Latin flavor while "East 104th Street Waltz" takes no prisoners by setting a blistering swing similar bands would be hard pressed to match.
Towner Galaher makes a statement with this release confirming he is indeed a legitimate triple threat. A formidable drummer, composer and bandleader finds Galaher releasing one of the best for 2012.
Tracks: Simone; Tell It Like It Is; Cafe Con Samba; Jimmy & Johnny; House Of Jade; Uptown!; East 104th Street Waltz; Phantom City; Shuffleocity; Blues On The Corner; Say What?
Personnel: Towner Galaher: drums; Pat Bianchi: organ; Donald Harrison: alto sax; Craig Handy: tenor sax; Brian Lynch: trumpet.
Huge Thanks To DL Media!