Days like these, when you have the opportunity to hear Troy Roberts fronting an all-star organ group, are pretty nice. Roberts—one of the most underappreciated tenor saxophonists on the scene, a mainstay in organ kingpin Joey DeFrancesco‘s band and an erstwhile sideman for drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts—shows a particular affinity for this format. A complete artist with a muscular yet fluid sound, soulful bearing and unerringly sensitive ears, it’s like he was made for this music.
Bringing DeFrancesco and Watts into his own project here, Roberts turns the tables in terms of leadership. But that fact is largely inconsequential as there are no musical subordinates on the recording. It’s just three men having a ball. The tracks they recorded together—three of them, which kick off the album—serve as ample evidence of that elevated enjoyment factor. “My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me” swings out of the gate. A gorgeous stroll through Jerome Kern’s “Why Was I Born?,” complete with an attractive Roberts cadenza, is a woolgathering wonder. And the sly “Trams” toys with the topic of directness, alternately simmering, winking, jostling and smiling all the way through.
The five remaining tracks on the album retain Watts but find Emmet Cohen on organ. Not surprisingly, the group dynamic is noticeably different for this portion of the program. Cohen, with a thinner sound and something of a pianistic perspective on the instrument, isn’t quite as flashy as DeFrancesco. But neither is any other organist on the planet. DeFrancesco’s outsized chops and personality are essentially unrivaled, so the aforementioned observations aren’t a knock at Cohen. He actually sounds quite good, bounding and swaying across “The Waltz Of Parting Days,” gleefully darting about during the caffeinated “Sly Old Dog,” and marking and gliding over the 5/4 foundation of “Jack The Sipper.”
By the time the album reaches its end with the comforting ballad “Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day” and the frisky fires of “Wizard Of Ozroop,” Roberts’ romance with the organ trio reaches full bloom. Whether playing to softer ideals or using his stentorian sensibilities to rival Watts’ wattage, Troy Roberts seems right at home. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tenor player better suited to this atmosphere or a group of musicians as well-matched to his vision.
Track Listing: My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me; Why Was I Born?; Trams; The Waltz Of Parting Days; Sly Old Dog; Jack The Sipper; Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day; Wizard Of Ozroop.
Personnel: Troy Roberts: tenor saxophone; Joey DeFrancesco: organ (1-3); Emmet Cohen: organ (4-8); Jeff “Tain” Watts: drums.
Title: Days Like These | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Toy Robot Music
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Terrence Wintersmith is reviewed by Michael Doherty’s Music Log