Joe Marcinek is a conjurer, always evolving and he does it again with JMB5 the unassuming name for his fifth studio album. As with his live shows his lineup of musicians change enabling him to capture a wide range of sounds and styles, always keeping it fresh and interesting. He’ll point out that he has is equal parts Chicago Blues, New Orleans Funk, Grateful Dead Psychedelia, and Jazz Fusion! That’s no lie — it’s true even within one album like JMB5. For this one, he recruited the B3 heavyweight Robert Walter who has been a featured player of The Greyboy Allstarts for 25 years and of course his solo work. Pete Koopmans on drums rounds out the ‘core’ trio but of course there’s a full complement of different instrumentation for this tune. The album is a great mix of laid back grooves and full throttle heaters. Here’s my track by track rundown –
DOG is a slinky opener from the core trio. Joe carries the lead most of the way. The opening has a synchonous theme that’s repeated before and after Joe plays some George Benson-like melodies. Robert mirrors Joe for a stretch and then rolls through a sustained B3 solo putting his mark on this one. Joe comes back with the lead before the trio comes back in full to the theme before Pete punctuates the ending.
Reciprocity starts with an island sound akin to early Spyro Gyra. It morphs into Benson, CTI 70s-era sounding composition. Walter takes another crisp twirl before Joe bounces back in. The trio is tight and you can feel the chemistry between them — all dialed in.
Vitalizing starts with quietude from Joe with some cymbal swirls from Pete and then organ swills from Robert. I really appreciate Joe’s compositions giving each player space to shine and the balance among them. Vitalizing is a nice example of that with the tune being more than the sum of its parts.
Cool Down features some strong driving toms from Pete throughout. This midtempo tune has solo trading again between guitar and drums reminscent of of the great trios like Jimmy Smith.
Bulldog‘s melody is finely scripted and developed by Joe and Robert follows with a rolling solo before the tempo slows to the bridge. Joe and Robert jointly drive a more dreamlike sequence here and Pete propels them into a racing segment before the trio coolly segues back to the head for the end.
Lagniappe is IT for me on this album. I usually don’t pick a favorite but this one just hits for me – it’s got that NOLA horn band sound that’s everything I need. Seriously, it belongs in the HBO series Treme – it’s that spot on. The horns know what they’re doing and Joe catches lightning in a bottle here. He catches the horn wave and matches them note for note and I’m skating.
Alex Wasily rips the ‘bone and then Sean Erick on trumpet and Jordan Donald on sax all start trading and they fly. Joe shreds in the second half and it’s transcendental right to the final flourish.
Doggone Blues Again has a big band feel, again with rippin horns. Naturally, it’s got a bluesy theme and Robert crushes a super heavy organ early on. This song swings start to finish – Joe effectively simulates lead vocals with the horns punching in for emphasis. I groove on original tunes like this where they have a familar feel that fits like a fine smoking jacket.
Bella has Robert and Joe lead off before it breaks off in a little samba like tune with Joe just snapping the cruising riff. He yields to Pete and Robert just poppin off together and you gotta bounce a leg listening to this. The handoff back to Joe is seamless and the melody gets ingrained in your head. Jason Hann is stellar on percussion and makes a distinctive contribution here. Well done!
Joe Marcinek, Guitar
Robert Walter, Hammond Organ
Pete Koopmans, Drums
Greg Spero, Piano
Jason Hann, Percussion
Alex Wasily, Trombone
Sean Erick, Trumpet
Jordan Donald, Sax
Tim Gamache, Engineer
Mixed by Alan Evans at Iron Wax Studios
Mastered by Brad Smalling at Evergroove Studios