|The new unit, featuring organist Kyle Koehler, alto saxophonist Mark Whitecage, and drummer John Bollinger, is as multitalented and flexible as the leader himself, allowing the band to immerse itself in the soulful organ jazz tradition, while at the same time turning it on its side to create music that is emotionally satisfying, intellectually stimulating and insistently forward looking.
Guitarist Dom Minasi's Quick Response shines up the organ combo concept and bends it into odd angles, then darts off interesting new trajectories.
Minasi released two albums on Blue Note Records in the seventies before he got his fill of the music business and took a quarter century off from high profile aspirations. He came back in the new century with his own record label and a focused vision. Enter Quick Response.
This new disc represents Minasi's often intense musical vision, undiluted by major label constraints. The set opens with often-done Cole Porter standard, “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, with a take on the tune that is about as un-standard as it could be. The leader's guitar and Mark Whitecage's alto saxophone sound like two different varieties of stinging insects, riled up and sizzling along on parallel paths, hellbent on ripping through the familiar melody, taking no prisoners on the way.
“I Who Have Nothing” (Leiber/Stoller), in a relatively mainstream mode with just the guitar trio, sits in the middle of the set. A tribute to Wes Montgomery, with whom Minasi shares a birthday, has a sedate and nicely reverential feel. The closer, the “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise” takes things back to a frenetic pace, full of Whitecage's Dolphy-like agitation on alto in front of the full-bodied organ chops, while Minasi rips off about a million sharp notes. The three standards bookend and intermission the six Minasi originals in a perfect pacing. “Feels Like Rain In China” goes modal, with organist Kyle Koehler lending an exotic feel to the tune.
The title tune cranks the intensity level back up, Minasi's licks sounding highly caffeinated; and the feeling here, as elsewhere on the disc, is of a bunch of free players channeled by some tight, if off-kilter, arrangements into a mainstream atmosphere that flirts freely, brazenly at times, with the freer side of jazz.
A set that takes organ jazz concept and gives it a good shake; and just when you think you've got your top ten of the year list sewn up, along comes another one to consider.