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Homegoing by Skip Heller Quartet

In an era (this one,alas) where most musicians are "specialists" (i.e., those that usually do but only ONE THING really well), guitarist/composer Skip Heller is a devoted eclectic who refuses to be limited to any one stylistic bag/style/etc. But for the purposes of this disc, Heller is a jazz guitarist paying tribute to the old-school Soul-Jazz Philadelphia organ combo sound - the tradition that Shirley Scott, Groove Holmes, Joey DeFrancesco and Jimmy Smith exemplify. But to his credit, Heller & company don’t merely re-heat the steaks ‘n’ chops of his forebears: they use that glad ‘n’ greasy, blues ‘n’ R&B-based organ/guitar/horns/drums nightclub sound as a template on which to respectfully (but not too) strut their stuff. They do simmering work-outs on standards (Styne/Cahn’s "Time After Time," voiced in a deep-velvet, fine ‘n’ mellow Billy Billy Eckstine/Johnny Hartman ballad style by guest Dave Alvin), a sly R&B-grooved tribute to The Beatles’ song-craft ("From The Night Before") that’d likely get approving nods from Jimmy Smith and McGriff and nifty, fresh-sounding, cliché-free originals (the mournful waltz "Emily Remler" with Cool School clarinet from TV/film-music whiz Robert Drasnin). Heller’s hearty-yet-refined string-bending uses Grant Green’s burnished blues-bop style as its launching pad, with elegant flashes ‘n’ tinges of T-Bone Walker and Frank Zappa. Mike Bolger plays some rollicking, imaginative, fleet-fingered Hammond B-3 in thrall to The Masters, albeit as a Learned, Eager Student, not an Uninspired Imitator. Homegoing will take you to that Inner South Philly Afterhours Club you never knew you had in you.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Skip Heller Quartet
  • CD Title: Homegoing
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Innova
  • Musicians: S. Heller: electric guitar; Robert Drasnin: alto sax, clarinet; Mike Bolger: organ; Howard Greene: drums; Dave Alvin: vocals (on 2 songs); Lee Toft: trumpet (on 2 songs).
  • Rating: Three Stars
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