It’s an interesting thing to hear the teenaged Kevin Coelho take to an instrument like the Hammond B3 organ. In part, this is because said instrument is often associated with the more “old-fashioned” side of life.
But here’s the 18-year-old Californian in full who-gives-an-eff mode, who fell for the organ under the hippest of circumstances. It was Booker T and the MGs that did it, precisely “Green Onions,” and the rest was history. Coelho took to the vibes of Jimmy McGriff and Don Patterson, too, and began studying at the ripe old age of 11.
In 2012, he released Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3. That disc told listeners everything they needed to know about Coelho’s fondness for the organ, so it stands to reason that his second record expands the playbook and ups the ante.
Turn It Up also cranks up the volume.
“The organ in jazz is a club instrument, after all, having gotten its start on the Chitlin’ Circuit,” Coelho explains. “That’s why I called it Turn It Up, because the record was meant to have that dancing spirit, that groove-to-the-music, turn-it-up vibe … I wanted it to be fun.”
To that end, Coelho blows through tracks like Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down,” which was of course sampled by the Beastie Boys on their 1994 record Ill Communication. On Turn It Up, Coelho jams with guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson. Sparked by dynamic riffs and an always-funky bass line, the track is sleek and groovy in all the right places.
As if that wasn’t cool enough, Coelho takes to Prince’s “Soft & Wet” with poise. He is especially adept at little touches, like the spurts of B3 that pepper phrases or the soft but erogenous rolls that slip right along with the tempo.
War’s “The World Is a Ghetto” gets the soulful treatment. Jackson’s rolls provide perspective, while Coelho’s playing is contemplative at first and stylish as the joint settles in.
There are the usual organ standards, like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” but these are less remarkable than Coelho’s originals. His “Shadows” is a gracefully layered instance of how he can cunningly write for a trio setting and pace out a comprehensive aural vision. It’s a song of grain, held in by several lengthy blasts from the mighty B3.
Coelho has indeed grown since Funkengruven, but he also hasn’t lost that spirit of invention that led him to take on a not-so-hip instrument in the first place. In his adept hands, the Hammond B3 is once again a slick, absorbing, vivid, and cool instrument that warmly calls back to those “Green Onions” days.
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