Joey DeFrancesco Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Joey DeFrancesco Trio 

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The Hammond organ has staged a remarkable comeback this decade (though not a wholly unpredictable one, given our fin de siecle fascination with cultural artifacts from 30 or 40 years ago). And while you don't hear his name bandied about quite so often as his contemporaries', the wunderkind Joey DeFrancesco has had plenty to do with this development. Still only in his mid-20s, he made his first albums and toured with Miles Davis as a teenager; since then he's developed some uncannily Sinatra-esque vocals, traded some trippy keyboards with John McLaughlin, and made some uncompromised organ-trio discs that must warm the heart of not only Jimmy Smith but also DeFrancesco's dad, himself an organist and the kid's first teacher. Such extreme versatility isn't automatically a plus, and in fact it can raise the question of what (if anything) an artist stands for. DeFrancesco's range is likely the result of his technical precocity--as he masters one idiom, he seems to search about for the next just to keep himself interested. But whenever he returns to the head-to-toe, bop-to-soul virtuosity that characterized the organ's first heyday, in the 1960s, he does so with the devotion and vigor one reserves for first loves. If he did nothing more than perfectly copy the classic approach, he'd still be worth hearing, but DeFrancesco has also made his own mark. In soloing, he has managed to reflect the influence of later stylists like Larry Young without losing what he's learned from such earlier innovators as Jack McDuff; he knows when to suspend the fireworks for a momentary blast of lyricism; and his accompaniment has a busy, exultant quality that makes everyone playing with him sound better. For this engagement, that means his regular guitarist and drummer, Paul Bollenback and Byron Landham. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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