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Veteran organist Radam Schwartz teams up with young tenor saxophonist Abel Mireles and his New Jersey-based Jazz Exchange Big Band for this easygoing, 10-track romp that recalls the glory days of organ and large ensemble collaborations. The session’s title references West Coast bandleader Gerald Wilson’s popular 1961 release You Better Believe It! — a date that featured organist Richard “Groove” Holmes. Notably, Holmes covered the bass part on two takes, a role that tickled Schwartz’s fancy and inspired him to record this project in that unconventional mode. The tactic produces an infectious, laid-back quality to the performances via hefty organ comping buoyed by fat, elastic chords.
The spirit of the classic organ combo is foundational throughout. Guitarist Charlie Sigler and drummer David F. Gibson partner with Schwartz to keep the rhythm section percolating with a bluesy edge. The leader’s swaggering “Trouble Just Won’t Go Away” serves as a stylistic template for much of the recording, powered by a relentless shuffle beat, a muscular horn section and tidy solos. Wisely, the repertoire boasts a wide range of styles. “A Path to Understanding,” composed and arranged by Peter Lin, one of the band’s trombonists, opens with a rustling rumba pulse. John Coltrane’s jaunty “Blues Minor,” arranged by baritone saxophonist Ben Kovacks, puts the spotlight on the big band, showcasing its dexterous approach to dynamics and imaginative section writing. R&B influences are celebrated through works popularized by The Isley Brothers, whose “Between the Sheets” is a slinky delight, and Aretha Franklin, recalled through a lush rendering of her ballad hit “Ain’t No Way.”
Wrapping the set are a rollicking version of Charles Mingus’ “Work Song” and an ingenious arrangement of J.S. Bach’s “Von Gott,” showcasing a reflective trombone solo by Lin. Six decades after this orchestral format was pioneered, Schwartz, Mireles and company demonstrate that time has not dampened its visceral appeal. — Mark Holston