NOVELLO: B3 Soul (Label: Nu Groove, No Go)

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Back in the day, the Hammond B3 was the instrument of choice for the soul-jazz brigade. More recently the warm but unwieldy instrument has fallen from favour despite high-level flag carrying from a number of stalwarts including James Taylor and John Novello. Mentored by Chick Corea, Novello once led a fusion band called Niacin before focusing on musical education. The man’s now making a kind of comeback with this solo set bearing the simple yet effective ‘B3 Soul’ title – and in most places the music matches the billing. The album boasts a number of big soulful grooves – including the opener ‘Show Me Honey’, the steady ‘Feelin’ The Beat’ and the great cover of Al Green’s ‘Love And Happiness’ which features big background vocals from Carmel Helene. Those and the sensual ‘Groove Suite Theme’ and the cinematic ‘Liquid Soul’ wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of those 60s classic soul-jazz sets from the acknowledged Hammond masters … that’s how adroit Novello is. He also shows a real versatility on the cut ‘Apologise’. Featuring Eric Marienthal, it’s a long piece with an ethereal feel that should recall the best of John Klemmer. In places though, Novello allows his adroitness and versatility to get the better of him. In an attempt to please a wider congregation (or maybe to stretch the soul-jazz concept?) he tries things which don’t quite come off. In particular, I’d point to ‘Transxpress’ and ‘The Message 2008’. The former runs along on almost club dance beats, while the latter is the bed for a rap from Jevon McGlory. Maybe Novello had his own doubts about their inclusion as both are sequenced at the end and labelled ‘bonus tracks’. Without them the album would have had a more homogenous sound and the skip button will always allow you to ignore them
(BB) 3/5