fri 07/08/2020

CD: Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco - You're Driving Me Crazy | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco - You're Driving Me Crazy

CD: Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco - You're Driving Me Crazy

The Irish soulman sings jazz

Van goes jazzy

Van Morrison has always been drawn as much to jazz as anything else. There is a natural swing to his voice, and his phrasing, melisma and familiar vocal mannerisms have always suited the medium well, from early excursions on Astral Weeks, through the jazzy feel of "Moondance" and his most recent albums.

Although he could from the start deliver fierce blue-eyed rhythm and blues with a visceral force that put Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon to shame, he was always as much at ease in cooler and more sophisticated territory, as he demonstrated in last year’s big band jazz album Versatile.

Joey DeFrancesco, Morrison’s collaborator for the latest of the seemingly endless series of albums that the singer seems to indefatigably deliver, is a trumpeter, but best known for his virtuosic command of the Hammond B organ, a very distinctive instrument which reigned in the 1960s, popularised by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Bill Doggett, and Baby Face Willette. The sustain of the keyboard’s notes, given body and depth from the Lesley amplifier was central to gospel, but transposed to the soulful or ‘churchy’ jazz of the period. It matches the Irish singer’s fluid melisma perfectly.

The album includes some of Van’s own compositions, as well as a number of standards. DeFrancesco’s sidemen also feature: the able and sensitive Dan Wilson on guitar, and versatile sax player Troy Roberts, who can play smooth and sensual as well as blow with blues-inflected passion. This music would play well in an intimate club, but in the studio, these guys don't seem to have as much fire in their bellies. It’s good, but not quite as sizzling as it would be late at night, with an appreciative audience, and even a few dancers on the floor to fuel the blaze that is sadly kept under the lid on this album.

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