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CD review: It's high time you heard from local jazz trio Organissimo

By Chris Rietz | For the Lansing State Journal

Organissimo's triumphant second CD "This Is The Place" already has attracted attention on the national jazz scene - but for those of you whose eyes have already glazed over at the word "jazz," hold on; this isn't what you think.

They're a no-nonsense jazz outfit, to be sure, but in the great Jimmy Smith "organ trio" tradition, bringing together an honest jazz vocabulary to a decidedly soul/R&B nightclub vibe - all built around the mighty Hammond B-3 organ, a sound everybody loves.

Jim Alfredson is also known to the locals for his work with Root Doctor, but he's building a national reputation among lovers of the genre, even earning envious remarks from B-3 Olympian Joey DeFrancesco.

Guitarist Joe Gloss met Alfredson in 1996 when they were both MSU Jazz Studies students, and his cliche- free guitar lines seem like models of architecture and economy, even when the notes are flying fast. His tone has some bite, too, even a whisper of distortion - a welcome departure from the bass-knob-to-10 colorlessness on which most jazz guitarists seem to insist.

Their meeting with veteran drummer Randy Marsh in 2000 was the event that put the trio in gear, his intuitive, just-this-side-of-melodic drumming making Organissimo a truly three-voiced ensemble.

A hard-funk, New Orleans- type groove seems to be the trio's comfort zone, as in "Greaze Monkey," "Stomp Yo' Feets" or "Wealthy Street," the address of Billy's Lounge in Grand Rapids. But they keep things fresh with a zippy triple-meter on "Smoking Section" and a careening 7-based pulse on "Play Nice."

Two covers leaven the set of originals, Gloss's juicy guitar introducing a twitchy samba version of "Tenderly." The other is Frank Zappa's "Peaches en Regalia," a vehicle for Zappa's signature melding of melodic sophistication and goofiness, and a great fit here.

"We're a bar band," they insist, but they're stressing a point: the meticulous arrangements and formidable chops may say "conservatory," but that effortless, hard-spanking funk groove says "let's have some fun."