by Nolan DeBuke
Robert Kennedy grew up in the deep south, where jazz has a long-standing history of producing soulful artists with a swinging attitude, dripping with gospel overtones. Kennedy is a Hammond organist and pianist that clearly soaked up his red clay roots, as his music is dripping with deeply felt swing and a style entrenched in the traditions of jazz organ.
Moving to the San Francisco music scene, Robert was a founding member of the groups Hip Pocket Jazz Quintet and Double Funk Crunch, and has had the pleasure of playing venues such as Yoshi’s, the Boom Boom Room, Doc’s Lab, the Agenda Lounge (in its heyday), and the SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium, and has shared stages with renowned players such as Nancy Wright, Calvin Keys, Will Weston and Terrence Brewer, playing music ranging from jazz, blues, R&B, and rock and roll.
“Wild Bill” opens the album. Instantly the music confirms that Kennedy and his band know how to build upon the rich blues, groove and gospel inspired feels that we have all come to love about organ-based ensembles. Ben Torres joins the trio on this blues riff-based melody. The feel is superlative, Kennedy’s big organ sound hooks-up with Cody Rhodes’ kit to create a vibrant rhythmic pad of both pulse and harmony. The melody is notable and offers a nice bass counter melody as the band plays the accents with feeling and spot-on accuracy. Torres wastes no time building the energy of his solo, with flurries of notes, he still maintains the melody’s character and theme throughout the duration of his solo. Kennedy’s solo is all about soul, his lines are lyrical and always relaxed and in the pocket. The band does not try to reinvent the wheel here, this is standard organ criteria done by a exceedingly capable group of players that results in a rewarding listening experience.
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