Tim Lerch is one of the more popular artists at JazzGuitarSociety.com, and so when I found out that he finished his long promised CD “The Carriage House Sessions Vol. 1”, I wanted to get it reviewed right away. I thought it was really cool that he decided to go with an organ trio format, and then when I saw that he chose Joe Bagg as the organist I was really impressed. Joe is also an organist of choice for Ron Eschete, another popular JGS artist, and since there are a lot of through lines between Tim and Ron’s playing, I could see why he chose Joe, one of the best of Southern California’s jazz organ players with the likes of Larry Goldings. Kendall Kay is another excellent choice on drums from the LA area for an organ trio, and I believe also a bandmate with Eschete from time to time.
The CD kicks off with a swingin’ shuffle written by Tim that evokes a funky club on a Saturday night, the aptly named “Bip Bop Bam”. Bagg’s organ starts a slowly building solo and when he literally “pulls out the stops” it starts to roar. Lerch’s simmering solo shows the Telecaster jazz moves that he is well known for: a tasteful blend of single notes and block chords in the best of the Wes Montgomery tradition, using his own modern harmonies and love for jump blues jazz in general. They trade with the drums and then take the head out, and your night at the Carriage House has begun.
“And The Beat Goes On” gets a very interesting mysterious “Indian shuffle” treatment, with Tim playing some sitar-type modal lines to set the mood. I love the loose snare drum backbeat Kay provides in this tune, it just feels very live and in your face. Bagg shows some more of his inventive harmonic concepts making this “one chord tune” have a LOT of chords in it. I love this way of playing with the harmony, and both Lerch and Bagg do it very well.
“Bittersweet”, a Lerch original, keeps the mysterious vibe going but down-shifts in the tempo to a medium ballad speed. The bluesy tango-esque melody snakes along into Lerch’s thoughtful heartfelt solo. Bagg delivers another hip and understated solo, keeping the B3 “the air of mystery” swells going through out as the band fades itself.
I love re-doing non-jazz catalog tunes in a jazz style, so “House Of The Rising Sun” is just what the doctor ordered for me. Tim moves to an octave solo half way through his choruses, and Joe’s swinging walking bass bubbles under his growling choruses. They trade bluesy four bar solos before coming back to the head again. Tim closes with a nice double stop harmonics line, another of his signature musical traits.
It’s also cool to see all the country pop tunes Lerch included, which all have blues and gospel roots as well. “The Tennessee Waltz”, Dolly Parton’s old hit “Jolene”, Ray Charles’ “Busted” and “You Don’t Know Me” all make well represented appearances on this soulful record. You get the feeling that you are at a club in a little town hearing the local amazing guitar hero holding court and laying it down old school for his fans. Tim turns up the grit on his funky solo on “Busted”, building the heat over Bag’s churning organ. I never realized the potential for “Jolene” as an instrumental before, but Lerch shows what a nice blues vehicle it is as well.
“Friendly Persuasions” shifts gears to a medium up-tempo swing head written over the changes for “Just Friends”. “Organizing Principles” is a faster swing “finger buster” head with a cool bridge section. Tim shows all his hip jazz blues lines in this one, and Bagg pulls out lots of quirky lines of his own.
The record calls “last call” and waves goodbye with a very personal reading of “You Don’t Know Me”, probably one of the more re-recorded standards of the last 60 or more years. Once again, Tim’s great Tele tone gently cries the blues to you with a really well crafted solo, ending the session with a nice couple of lines to send you home with.
Basically, “The Carriage House Sessions Vol. 1” takes you into the heart of the funky blues jazz that Tim loves to play, and that’s pretty much what any artist wants to do with their record, especially their first. Mission accomplished.
April 14, 2015
The Carriage House Sessions Vol. 1 is available exclusively at Tim Lerch’s site: http://www.timlerch.com/