Joel Spencer + Mike Kocur: Interior Window
With Medeski, Martin and Wood currently topping the jazz charts as the new millennium’s answer to the preeminent jazz organ combo, drummer Joel Spencer and organist Mike Kocour could hardly make a more compelling argument for releasing these vibrant, previously unissued 1980’s sessions. These two sets were recorded four years apart when down home grooves dominated the genre’s few durable mainstays. And that’s what makes this core trio of Spencer, Kocour and Brad Wheeler on tenor and soprano saxophones, so intriguing. This music not only picks up where The Tony Williams Lifetime left off some twenty years earlier, it anticipates the great Hammond B3 revival of the 1990’s; predating John Abercrombie’s group with organist Dan Wall, and Joey DeFrancesco’s and Larry Golding’s organ-based groups, as well.
Although Spencer’s drumming here immediately calls to mind the intense chops of Tony Williams and Kocour succinctly captures the caustic sound of Larry Young’s smoldering B3, this band prefers to bubble just beneath the surface. Even when joined by guitarist Akio Sasajima and longtime Spencer collaborator Kelly Sill on two of this collection’s most explosive tracks, their interplay retains a refined, almost elegant reserve that keeps the music from boiling over the top.
In fact, it’s probably this cool and measured approach that makes this music so exciting, inviting repeated listening. Kocour plays throughout without discernable cliches, his fresh ideas unfolding with economic clarity over Spencer’s muscular grooves. And one can only lament the loss from the Chicago music scene of Brad Wheeler, whose silky voice on reeds rounds out a group that could easily have become a vital force had it endured to the present. Highly recommended!—Dennis Sieja
Available on the Chicago Lakeside Jazz, widely distributed in Chicago stores or via their website www.cljazz.com