BK Trio Hit It
Artist: BK Trio
Album: Hit It
Release Date: 5.22.2020
by Jim Hynes
BK Trio is the classic organ trio lineup of guitar, Hammond B3, and drums. Bandleader and guitarist Brian Kooken (“BK”) is a Baltimore-based musician with a background in gospel music, blues, and jazz. Notably, he toured with Marva Wright, the Blues Queen of New Orleans (thought that Irma Thomas held that title, but lest we digress) from 2005 – 2008. Hit It appears to be Kooken’s first album as a leader and he’s joined by Greg Hatza on the B3 and Robert Shahid on drums. Hatza played alongside Kooken, backing Wright and the two have collaborated since, with Kooken appearing on Hatza’s 2016 release, Digging Up My Roots. On Hit It Kooken composed all eight pieces.
While the title implies explosiveness, this one stays in strong grooves—in the pocket, so to speak—and threatens to catch fire without really igniting. Maybe this trio didn’t have that intent, instead staying true to the compositions. In truth, most of the real fiery performances from other organ trios are live recordings. Nonetheless this trio finds their grooves; the chemistry of the players is palpable, and it’s easy to tell that Hatza and Kooken know each other very well. Also, Kooken knows his way around the fret board with precise single lines and great tone. Hatza’s B3 is right on point throughout with his chords, fluid basslines and superb note choices. Shahid stays in a finesse-oriented supportive role behind the two drivers.
Highlights include the relaxing vibe of “Brazilian Blues,” the soulful strut of “Hatza’s Groove,” and the slow burning gutsy blues of “It’s Monday And I’ve Got the Blues” where both Kooken and Hatza unleash impassioned solos. “In That Funk Again” delivers an irresistible greasy spirt and a mix of rhythm styles driven by Shahid.
The trio returns to swinging jazz on “5 Minutes Late” and closes in bluesy fashion for “Soul for Shadid,” yet another fine example of timing, phrasing and dialogue between guitar and organ. This one, as much as any typifies that classic R&B feel of the organ trios of the late ’60s and ’70s but the abrupt ending is somewhat unsettling.
Kooken proves to be a solid composer and a terrific guitarist. The organ trio format suits him well for this auspicious debut.