With a big throaty tenor saxophone sound, an accompanying Hammond B-3, and tunes by Tex Allen, Jack McDuff, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and Lucky Thompson, Doug Lawrence’s CD Street Wise
is a celebration of the well established sound of the soulful "tough tenor" organ quartet like those that emerged in the 1960’s. In addition to tunes by the aforementioned musicians, the 48 minutes and 35 seconds of music on the CD also include a bebop oriented original by Lawrence entitled "What For?" and the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "Hello Young Lovers." While most of the tunes on the CD are medium to up-tempo straight ahead swingers, the ensemble breaks from this format on the lovely ballad "A Portrait of Jenny" and the Bossa Nova tinged Lucky Thompson tune "Spanyola."
Lawrence’s playing demonstrates his years of training and professional experience. His musical ideas while improvising are devoid of clichés that overly indebt him to any one particular player, have depth of intensity and are quite profound. The sidemen on this record date likewise exemplify very high levels of musicianship. Drummer George Fludas drives the ensemble with metronome like precision and guitarist Ray Macchiarola lays down some great improvised ideas of his own. Organist Dan Trudell not only solos well, but also provides background accompaniment that at times gives the listener an impression that saxophonist Lawrence is being backed up by a 20-piece big band.
It is difficult to identify a "stand out" composition or performance on the CD. All the tunes are very even in quality of musicality and expression. There are no flashy "bells and whistles" or anything that is experimental or treading on "the outside" on this CD. Street Wise
is just four musicians creating great gut level, soulful, swinging hard bop that digs in with abandon. If anything is a standout, it is the quality of the ensemble playing. This very tight knit group makes Street Wise
a veritable clinic on how to jell as a quartet. For those who love great burning straight ahead soulful hard bop, this recording is a highly recommended addition to a jazz CD collection.