If you can judge a person by the company he keeps, then you have to believe it when Dr. Lonnie Smith calls former protégé and fellow Hammond B3 ace Wil Blades “the future to carry on the legend, the legacy of the (B3) organ.” Blades has worked with some of the best drummers in the business, such as the late Idris Muhammad, Scott Amendola, Stanton Moore and Billy Martin, even making a record with the Medeski, Martin & Wood elite beat maker. He’s also worked with some pretty darn good guitarists, too, in Will Bernard, Charlie Hunter and Melvin Sparks.
Field Notes, coming out August 19, 2014 from the Royal Potato Family, is only Blades’ second album not counting the Martin encounter, but he brings twelve albums worth of veteran savvy to it. A nice, tidy trio completed by Jeff Parker on guitar and Simon Lott on drums, Blades makes an album that always grooves but never gets stuck in a rut. Blades and his crew find many different ways to get the job done, by looking both back and forward.
Right off, the band gets off on the good foot off the strength of Lott’s easygoing break beat on “Miller’s Time,” and Parker (Tortoise, Fred Anderson, Scott Amendola Band uses a slightly acerbic tone to construct a fatback solo. But the leader leaves the biggest mark due to his innate ability to stay inside the pocket and let the inspiration come to him; nothing is forced. Later on, the slow jam “Chrome” is oozing with soulful goo from the pulsating guitar of Parker joined by the big, glowing chords of Blades.
“Parks N’ Wreck” takes organ jazz deep into the 21st century thanks to Lott’s organic hip-hop beat and Parker’s crackling tone. It gets even better when the song pivots into a funk-filled bridge and Blades lets loose with a nasty-assed solo. “(I Can’t Stand) The Whole Lott of You” is more of a boogaloo but played with MMW style spunk. For the smooth strutting “Addis,” Blades goes high on one part of the theme then finishes the riff by going down low.
Other highlights include…well, the rest of the nine tracks, really. Every song finds a different way to soothe, groove and satisfy the soul. Blades and his trio never seem to run out of ideas.
And thusly, I don’t run out of reasons to cue up Field Notes once again. It’s destined to become one of the best organ-led soul-jazz records of 2014.