Jocelyn Michelle

Time To Play!
(Chicken Coup Records)

The woman with two first names makes an impressive entrance into the exclusive group of female Hammond B-3 organ players.

For the uninitiated, the Hammond B-3 organ is a mammoth, daunting electric piano—nicknamed the “monster” or the “beast” by some—with two keyboards (called registers) and several foot pedals.

Throughout jazz history, numerous jazz musicians have taken to this soulful instrument, from the late master Jimmy Smith to today’s heavyweights of Joey DeFrancesco, Tony Monaco, and Dr. Lonnie Smith.

The B-3 is more like a house pet in Michelle’s hands. But it’s not a knock on Michelle that she gets mellow and melodic tones from this colossal instrument—a deep, rich sound, like a good, well-played church organ. She and seven musicians and two vocalists deliver a polished, engaging album.

The flame is low for much of the set, but there’s just enough of a straightahead feel to appeal to jazz and B-3 fans alike. Special kudos to guitarist Bruce Foreman and drummer Sammy K.

Briefly, Michelle is from Florida and lives in Hawaii. She began playing piano at age 7, but wasn’t attracted to it. She did dig her mother’s jazz collection, which included some organ, but it was the discovery of a slew of rock organists that excited her most.

Ah, but what about jazz? She took online instructions from Monaco, and as her confidence grew she was on her way. For her debut, Michelle’s song choices are, in her words, all over the map—six originals and four covers. Each of the covers is special.

Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” is given a soulful reading; a cover of Henry Mancini’s delightful “Pink Panther Theme” captures the humor well; and there is a backbeat version of passionate Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri’s “Last Tango In Paris” featuring tenor saxophonist Doug Webb.

Finally, the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans love song “Never Let Me Go” is Michelle’s most fully realized, most moving performance. It’s a perfect finish to the album.

On Sale Now
August 2022
Jon Batiste
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