By: Dan Emerson for Jazz Police
Unlike those of us who whiled away their COVID-19 hiatus streaming episodes of Tiger King or similar fodder, B-3 organ wizard joey DeFrancesco apparently put his unwanted COVID “vacation” to better use. Finishing a two-night stand at Crooners in Fridley Saturday night, Joey D played a lengthy set mostly consisting of new compositions he recorded for his new album “More Music.” And, along with the B-3, DeFrancesco also played trumpet, sax and piano and sang – skills he presumably brushed up on during his forced break from the road.
In a unique twist, there were not one but two Hammond organs onstage. One was played by the trio’s other multi-instrumentalist, Lucas Brown, whose primary instrument is guitar; he’s also a fine organist. Like DeFrancesco, Brown and drummer Anwar Marshall are both products of the fertile Philadelphia jazz scene. Joey D played trumpet , tenor sax and electric piano on the opener, a relaxed shuffle. He also played an original ballad, “Lady G,” written for his wife.
Playing the perfect host for the evening’s entertainment, DeFrancesco also sang one number: “And If You Please,” with lyrics penned by a friend. “I don’t write lyrics,” Joey D noted. He sang in a serviceable baritone, played tenor and did some organ comping. Then he switched to trumpet for a funky stop time instrumental, quoting “CC Rider” in his solo. On the original “Just Beyond the Horizon” he cooked on B 3. Then he played electric keyboard on another funk piece driven by Marshall’s loose limbed drumming. Joey D threw in the melody from Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”
Another instrumental featured dueling B-3s and De Francesco got the audience to join him in some scat-singing. A large ball of energy, he cranked up the energy level with some ascending, two-handed organ riffing. DeFrancesco’s constant energy and enthusiasm onstage brought to mind a line from that old Detroit be-bopper, John Lee Hooker: “Let that boy boogie-woogie; it’s in him, and it’s got to come out.” Joey D seemed to be overflowing with the joy of playing music for the people after a too-long, unwanted “vacation” from performing. He was happy and he brought the audience along with him.
Dan Emerson is a freelance writer and musician.