This has been a wonderful year of recordings from eclectic jazz keyboard players. Just a few months ago, celebrated organist Dan Trudell released his terrific piano trio album. Now we find that the exquisite jazz pianist Ben Paterson has released For Once In My Life, his first Hammond B3 organ album. Although Paterson has played jazz organ for some time, he has established himself as a pianist of uncommon virtuosity - with an equally deft touch - most notably in the groups of Von Freeman and Bobby Broom. For this recording, Paterson has assembled an all-star organ trio with Peter Bernstein on guitar and George Fludas on drums. The trio plays a delightful collection of standards, originals, and lesser-known jazz gems such as Sonny Rollins's "Decision."
As many jazz veterans know all too well, the jazz organ/guitar trio is a unique and sometimes tricky format. On For Once In My Life, Paterson's trio gels perfectly in every way. From the first track it is apparent that Paterson's organ chops are just as mature and superlative as his piano work. Paterson does not use the B3's sonic possibilities for empty virtuosity. Instead, he impressively uses the organ as an expressive foil, playing with exquisite lyricism and a flawless swing pocket.
It is an understatement to say that Peter Bernstein is a top-call organ trio guitarist. Bernstein has played in the organ groups of Melvin Rhyne, Jack McDuff, Lonnie Smith and Larry Goldings, just to name a few. On this recording, his golden tone and supreme lyricism are the perfect complement to Paterson's organ. George Fludas is simply one of the most in-demand drummers in jazz today. His superb pocket and his inspired brushwork make him a great fit for this hard bop organ trio setting.
It is particularly appealing that Paterson retains the sensitive touch and buoyant swing from his remarkable piano playing, while unloading nuanced bluesy grease on the B3. The recording leads off with the Ray Bryant gem, "Cubano Chant," and Paterson and Fludas are particularly excellent on this track. Paterson spins a solo of uncommon shape and character, while Fludas plays with ferocious swing and contributes a terrific drum solo toward the end. Fludas's expert brush work make the swinging "I'll Close My Eyes" a joy, as does Paterson's solo. On this track and several others, he plays with a mature sense of pacing and development that belie his years.
Paterson begins the ballad "Cry Me A River" with a gospel-tinged introduction, after which, Bernstein shines with a supremely lyrical solo. Bernstein mirrors Paterson's impeccable sense of pacing with his playing on a fun cover of Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover." On Sonny Rollins's "Decision," Paterson shines with his ability to make the difficult sound crisp and effortless. While all three musicians individually flourish on the standard "We'll Be Together Again," it is their soulful group sound that sparkles. Fans of Paterson's previous piano albums should get a hold of this terrific organ trio release.