Joey DiFrancesco | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Joey DiFrancesco 

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The jazz organ trio has undergone a revival in recent years, thanks mainly to the contributions of three different types of musicians: surviving veterans from the soul-jazz 60s, acid-jazz keyboardists (notably John Medeski) influenced by the old stuff, and modern players like Larry Goldings and Sam Yahel who take a sly, cool approach to the instrument. And then there's Joey DeFrancesco. He belongs to the younger generation, but he neither downplays the Hammond B-3's big and blowsy emotionalism nor indulges in acid-jazz textures; he simply plays it the way Jimmy Smith (the premier exemplar of the style and a fellow native of Philadelphia) did in his prime--which is saying a lot. In fact, the instrument has had only one or two players of Smith's caliber prior to DeFrancesco. The B-3 has a tendency to make fast riffs sound even faster, but beyond that DeFrancesco's developed a completely ridiculous technique, spinning and careering through his solos with daredevil abandon and taking listeners on roller-coaster rides of grand old-fashioned virtuosity. And the kid is nothing if not prolific: he doesn't turn 32 till April, but he's released 16 albums under his own name (the last three within just 11 months) and close to 70 as a featured sideman, including trio stints with heavy-hitter guitarists John McLaughlin and Pat Martino. In his own group DeFrancesco showcases guitarist Paul Bollenback, a versatile and exciting player whose work ranges from mainstream projects like this to the decidedly edgier M-Base-influenced work of saxophonist Gary Thomas. Tuesday through Thursday, December 10 through 12, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, December 15, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Abbout.

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