One Track Mind: Kevin Coelho, "Cantaloupe Island" (2012)

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source: Kevin Coelho (Facebook)

Some kids are fast learners. Kevin Coelho first took piano lessons at age six. Five years later, he fell in love with the jazz organ after hearing Booker T. and the MG’s “Green Onions.” Five years after that, he has his first album at sixteen years old, a broiling set of Jimmy McGriff-styled numbers called Funkengruven: The Joy Of Driving A B3. Tony Monaco, one for the reigning rulers of the Hammond B3 discovered this fresh talent and provided the production and the personnel (Reggie Jackson, drums; Derek Dicenzo, Guitar) for these sessions. If Monaco says this guy is good, then people ought to pay attention.

Coelho, it turns out, can compose, too, and he tossed in a couple of originals to the set. Mostly, though, he sticks with covers, which tends to occur more often in organ jazz, anyway, it seems. The cover that sticks out the most is Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” a song familiar to anyone who has heard Hancock’s 1965 original if not Us3’s hip-hop take on it from 1994. Coelho and Cohorts turns the mid-tempo funk of the original into a perky boogaloo, with the theme re-harmonized just so to juice up the funk a little further. Everyone gets in on the action: Jackson adds a little James Brown seasoning to the beat, and Dicenzo’s octaves recall Wes Montgomery’s famous sides with Jimmy Smith.

This remains, though, Coelho’s show, and from the beginning when you here those opening bass pedal notes, you realize he’s got a firm grasp of the B3 thing. A great organ solo stays in the pocket, paces well and exploits the instrument’s ability to create tension (in the right spots) and sheets of soul. That’s just what this teenager does. It speaks to Monaco’s effusive praise in the liner notes when he asserts that when he first heard Coelho, “his vocabulary on the B3 was already very mature and his knowledge of the music I grew up listening to was well studied already.”

Most high school juniors are still figuring out what they want to do when they grow up. Kevin Coelho is doing it now, playing grown-up jazz.

Funkengruven: The Joy Of Driving A B3 will be released on July 10, by Tony Monaco’s Chicken Coop Records.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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