The Richie Hart Trio with Rick Petrone and Joe Corsello evolved into existence in 2002. Petrone and Corsello had played together in a variety of groups since the late '60s. A few years ago, they began working alongside Hart in trumpeter Mark Morganelli's group. A rapport quickly developed and when Tom Jung urged them to cut an album, the result was "Timeless" released on their own Hohenberger Music label. Soon they started touring, concentrating on New York and Boston clubs and a string of New England jazz festivals.
George Benson, a longtime supporter of his protégé Richie, brought them to his studio the following year to begin a second album. That session was the seed of what would become their first Zoho release "Blues In The Alley". The band's biographies are well detailed by Bill Milkowski on that release.
On "Blues In The Alley" guest artists Gerry Niewood on reeds and Pete Levin on keyboards were brought in to expand the trio's sound on a number of tunes. For this album, Levin, best known for his years with Gil Evans, returns to flesh out arrangements on electric piano and organ on six tunes. On three more, the great Dr. Lonnie Smith lends his soulful organ. Tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon, whose credits include Lionel Hampton, Jack McDuff and Harry Connick, Jr. and who has recorded four albums of his own since 1993, is featured on four tunes.
Trombonist Clifton Anderson is internationally known through his association with the legendary Sonny Rollins whose band he joined in 1983, and with whom he recorded eight albums.
This trio is distinguished not only by its members' playing and their collective sound but also by their remarkably eclectic selection of material that ranges from originals to standards to swing tunes and modern jazz compositions by the masters.
"Greasy Street" by Petrone and Corsello artfully blends the soul jazz idiom with New Orleans second-line funk, a wonderful, compatible fusion that dates back to Jack McDuff's 1970 album "Who Knows What Tomorrow Gonna Bring" with arranger Ray Draper. Dr. Lonnie and Weldon are present as is trombonist Clifton Anderson whose instrument adds the flavor of an earlier kind of New Orleans music.
"Frim Fram Sauce" was a novelty hit for the King Cole trio in 1946. Most versions take their cues from Cole's approach. But Hart and company take the musical meat of the tune, brighten the tempo and turn it into a great, solid 4/4 swing vehicle. Pete Levin is on organ and Jerry on tenor. Hart's solo is a wonder, drawing inspiration from Les Paul as much as from Wes Montgomery. Petrone and Weldon follow.
Richie Hart loves to write blues as much as he loves to play them. "East Coast Blues" is his contribution to this project and his solo is an example of fluid invention. Weldon, dipping into the Illinois Jacquet bag, and Dr. Lonnie get off fine solos as well.
Another oft-covered song that gets a fresh overhaul from trio is John Coltrane's "Naima". Petrone fashions a wonderful bass line; Corsello sets the rhythm in light bossa beat and Hart uses both electric and acoustic guitars to render the melody with an almost tango-like sway. Pete Levin is on electric piano. (Check out this band's reinvention of Coltrane's "Black Pearls" on "Blues In The Alley.")
Organist Larry Young first introduced "Tyrone" his 6/8 composition with lilting, floating melody on his 1964 album "Into Somethin'" with Grant Green on guitar, It has been a favorite of guitarists and organist ever since with notable versions by Larry Coryell with John McLaughlin, Steve Khan, and Big John Patton. Here they take it a faster-than-customary tempo with Lonnie Smith taking a great first solo, followed by an inspired Richie. Weldon doesn't solo, but his reading of the theme is reminiscent to that of Sam Rivers on Young's original version.