Kyle Asche (pronounced Ash-ee, remember it well) has generated quite a buzz with his excellent new organ trio project The Hook Up. Despite his obvious youth, Asche is a truly remarkable musician with a mature jazz conception and a classic jazz guitar tone. Likewise, his organist -DaviPete Benson plays the Hammond B-3 with a depth of expression well beyond his years. The Hook Up is one of those rare releases where everything comes together in terms of fresh compositions, musicianship, tonality and recording quality. Even the photography and package design are first-rate.
The Hook Up features six original compositions and two standards in the classic tradition of Wes Montgomery, Wayne Shorter and Grant Green. The leading track, "Tightrope," is a bouncy mid-tempo romp with an accessible melody and transparent method of trading solos. The shimmering outro makes good use of a favorite Hammond B-3 attribute. Scott Burns adds his tenor sax brilliance to four tracks. He spurs the trio along with his protracted bop lines. "Takala" contains an alternately slurred and staccato melody line: a pursed-lip slow-dance full of bad attitude. Drummer Todd Howell's sizzling high-hat and tight snare-hits stir a downright sexy shuffle. "For Mike" is full of late-night melancholy, further enhanced by Burns' subtly moody sax solo.
"Hide Inside" may contain the most surprising musical twists, yet Burns keeps it true to its bop foundations. Even with his elevated stature, Burns couldn't ask for a better backing trio. Asche introduces "Alfie" with an extended guitar solo, joined in time by a barely perceptible organ bed and brushed snare drum. The musical effect is arresting. The final title track shows-off sophisticated rhythmic interplay, infused with more group improvisation. It's no wonder Asche was a finalist in the 2005 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition, an event which will broadcast on BET in February 2006.
Regardless of tempo, the Kyle Asche Organ Trio are locked together rhythmically. Benson's imaginative and dynamic keyboarding is precise, even on long triplet runs. Howell drives the beat with conviction and he signals changes with propulsive drum breaks.
Organ trios have always held a unique place in jazz history. In an October 2002 interview on NPR's Fresh Air, quintessential bassist Ron Carter reminisced on so-called "Blue Monday Sessions." In the early 60s, around the same time he played in Miles Davis quintet, New York City jazz musicians would supplement their income by participating in organ trios from 3 am to 7 am. Occasionally, Carter would be called-in to play electric bass when the organist had a weak left hand or foot (thus stretching the term "trio") Suffice it to say, there was no need to call a bassist for the Kyle Asche trio sessions. Benson eliminates the need with his tremendous lefty dexterity on tracks like "For Those That Are There."
The Hook Up features the highest production quality. Though the guitar and the organ naturally share the same frequency bandwidth, the instruments are always clearly differentiated here. This is worthwhile CD purchase for all serious jazz fans. Kyle Asche has arrived, and he's here to stay. You can look forward to telling people, "Oh yeah, I've been listening to him since that organ record back in 2005!"
For even more hard-bop organ jazz, check out our review of another new release, The Steve Hall Quintet.
- David Seymour is a jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.