We Wish You A Bossa Christmas (2020, IRMA Records)
Chestnuts ready to roast? Christmas tree decorated? Advent calendar started? Then leave behind the hardships of the past year and endulge in the festive season. Take a step back in time and celebrate with the vintage sound of a 1958 Hammond organ and a jazz/bossa trio rendering some Xmas classic tunes in a lounge-exotica and Stax soul style. Hammond Express is back with a Christmas album where the old classics take on a new feel. We Wish You A Merry Christmas becomes an irresistibile fast bossa reminiscent of Cal Tdjader whilst Jingle Bells increases tempo with a latin/jazz rhythm and a Jackie Davies influenced organ sound. Other Christmas hits are rearranged in a surprisingly Memphis soul style: White Christmas and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town sound both groovy and close to 1960’s soul act Booker T. & The MG’s. No swing, no party: so here are more swinging ballroom classics. Winter Wonderland and Let It Snow get the Hammond Express treatment based on lounge organ, glockenspiel and sleigh bells, while Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is another 1960’s bossanova standard. The other tracks in the album – although not strictly Christmas tunes – are arranged with a classic Xmas Hammond style: Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade sounds like a funky brasilian partido alto’s party tune, Henry Mancini’s Moon River (Breakfast At Tiffany’s) is a 1960’s jazz waltz for organ trio and vibraphone, Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll swings along with a cool tribute to the great jazz organists of all time – Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Johnny “Hammond” Smith – featuring a flute solo by guest musician Dario Cecchini (Funk Off, Italian Secret Service). Following Vertigo Bossa (2018), Another Stepping Soul (2011) and Rendez-Vous (2003), We Wish You A Bossa Christmas (IRMA Records) is the fourth album by Hammond Express, aka keyboard player Francesco Gazzara plus fellow musicians Sir Blofeld (bass) and Mirtao (drums, percussion).
Vertigo Bossa (2018, IRMA La Douce)
As in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller Vertigo, Hammond Express pushes bossanova and easy listening to dizzy levels with its vintage sounds mixed in an orchestral score writing environment. After all this is the core style of the project led by Italian keyboardist and composer Francesco Gazzara since debut album Rendez-Vous (2003, Scenario) and the soul tinged follow-up Another Steppin’ Soul (2011, IRMA La Douce). The Hammond organ – B3 model with Leslie 760, both build in 1958 too – is certainly primadonna here but with no imitation of any great jazz/funk organist of the past. Vertigo Bossa is indeed an album of cinematographic sensations more than a collection of stereotyped solos and riffs. A visionary opening (Harvest Lounge) leads us to Henry Mancini symphonic 70’s, while the title-track explores latin and psychedelic grounds. The modern soul groove of Chrysalis prepares the elegant lounge of Jazz And Charisma before the urban and glamourous Esoterico steps in with a Sex And The City style. The Hammond sounds fiddle between jazz and folk/prog settings – in each album’s track there’s a title reference to some glorious ‘70’s british record labels – while all acoustic guitars, Fender Rhodes, percussion and electric bass (Massimo Sanna) paint a different picture lightly influenced by brasilian artists like Azymuth and Sergio Mendes. All on board, Hammond Express convoy is ready to depart on platform groovy-lounge!
Another Steppin’ Soul (2011, IRMA La Douce)
Welcome again to the groovy railway of soul: Hammond Express. A few years away since their debut album Rendez-Vous (2003, Scenario), the Italian organ funk combo is back with Another Steppin’ Soul, a convoy full of hammond dirty jazz, soundtrack vintage themes and a strong mod attitude. Originally a quartet led by organist Francesco Gazzara, Hammond Express is not (only) late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s soul paraphernalia fetish, but also an open invitation to the dancefloor – bring on your dancing shoes and talcum powder though – , a call to lounge aperitifs, mod parties and soul allnighters. Another Steppin’ Soul is a tribute to northern and motown soul, with many classics from The Tams, Booker T. & The MG’s, Four Tops, The Millionaires, The Supremes, Judy Street, Curtis Mayfield. Picture yourself dancing – on the same night – to renditions of soul gems like Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy, What, Never For Me or Move On Up, all played live by an organ quartet with vocal, horns and percussive guests. But that’s not all, Hammond Express new album also includes some 007 themes by John Barry, like Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, and also a funky instrumental cover of Nobody Does It Better (written by Marvin Hamlisch for 007 The Spy Who Loved Me) arranged in the style of great organist Richard “Groove” Holmes. Personnel: Francesco Gazzara (organ & keys), Massimo Sanna (bass), Giuliano Ferrari (drums), Mirtao (percussion), Lily Latuheru (vocals), Dario Cecchini (flute & saxes). File under: northern soul, acid jazz, funk, beat. Sounds like: Booker T. & The MG’s, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, JTQ.
Another Steppin’ Soul: through the covers…
1) Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy – The Tams
An irresistible shuffle groove, a warm invitation to the soul dancefloor, this is the kind of track that will make your toes tap and hands clap. Hammond Express rendition takes off from the instrumental infamous cover by Booker T. & The MG’s and lands to the The Tams original vocal version.
2) I Can’t Help Myself – Four Tops
An unmissable Motown classic, played here in the style of Earl Van Dyke, the late ‘60’s organist that led His Soul Brotherhood through the Detroit repertoire, finding a new breed of grooves, bass lines and riffs perfect for the Hammond sound.
3) Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
Yes, it is the masterpiece by Marvin Gaye. But this rendition refers also to the english organist Brian Auger and his ‘70’s group Oblivion Express. Inner City Blues was one of their best covers, included in the 1973 album Close To It. Many versions thereafter, anyone remember a great one by Working Week?
4) Goldfinger – John Barry
The very first acid jazz cover of this great theme was by The James Taylor Quartet in 1985, some years before their more succesful remake of Starsky&Hutch. Later even Shirley Bassey resung the track with The Propellerheads. Hammond Express goes back to the early beat arrangement of JTQ.
5) Diamonds Are Forever – John Barry
Similarly to what Fun Lovin’ Criminals did with All The Time In The World, Hammond Express modernize the original funk groove in this 007 classic. There’s is more than an eye wink to the magnificent orchestral staccatos by John Barry.
6) What – Judy Street
A northen soul anthem, both fast and romantic. With no organ trio’s version available until today, Hammond Express goes back to the acrobatic atmosphere of ‘70’s soul clubs like the Wigan’s Casino or the Blackpool’s Mecca.
7) Nobody Does It Better – Marvin Hamlisch
Once a slow ballad sung by Carly Simon in the movie 007 The Spy Who Loved Me, this track becomes here a very danceable southern funk, recalling a less known version by the great american organist Richard “Groove” Holmes.
8) Never For Me – The Millionaires
One more northern soul gem, a favourite by english DJ Eddie Piller, longtime londoner mod and founder of label Acid Jazz. His intensive playing of this track convinced Hammond Express to record a 2011 rendition.
Rendez-Vous (2003, Scenario Music)
If you shiver everytime you hear a Hammond organ twirl, possibly played by Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Larry Young or Booker T., then you’re not one to miss the Rendez-Vous with Hammond Express. Even if you prefer to lie down on the pool side tasting your favourite cocktail, accompained by the perfect samba-lounge courtesy of brasilian organist Walter Wanderley, then you’ll love the easy sounds of Hammond Express. In other words, if you’re a romantic hobo who loses himself in Phase Four vinyl records and their Hammond cover versions of Burt Bacharach songs, or if you get excited with a modernist mix of house breaks, vintage samples, flute and flugelhorn solos, organ and Moog twirls, then Rendez-Vous is definitely the album for you. Born as a new-lounge compilation, the Hammond Express debut album, released by the Italian label Scenario Music, is a futuristic trip into dance jazz, through spy-movie soundtracks (Modern City Blues), sci-fi atmospheres (Space), ‘70’s bossa nova (Bossa Rouge – Vibrato Mix) and easy-listening evergreens, like The Carpenters We’ve Only Just Begun. Not the usual Hammond combo, but something modern for a “future lounge” party with a psychedelic touch. At the Hammond organ (and many other vintage keyboards, plus acoustic guitar) sits Francesco Gazzara, already known as leader of his own group Gazzara, also author of the Italian book Lounge Music. With him, on board of the Hammond Express, there’s bass player Massimo Sanna. Special guests on Rendez-Vous are Cuban flute maestro Eduardo Piloto Barreto and flugelhorn player Giovanni Di Cosimo. Hammond Express started in 1999 as a recording act releasing three songs for label IRMA Records (Capricorn Soul, Ass Enchillada, Batucada Express), included in three different compilations (Ultradolce Vol.1, Irma Cocktail Lounge, Ultradolce Vol.2). Their debut album for Scenario Music contains 14 new tracks and is inspired by many live sets played as a duo, with a tight sound reminiscent of the London club scene of the late ‘60’s. Keep On Burning! But don’t forget to get off at the next stop by Hammond Express.