Guitarist Ed Cherry, who played in Dizzy Gillespie‘s band for 15 years and also worked with Dakota Staton, Kenny Burrell, Roy Hargrove, Ruth Brown, and Steve Coleman, among many others, has released a funky and grooving new album called “Soul Tree” with Kyle Koehler on organ and Anwar Marshall on drums.
Ed starts his 10-song collection with a track from the very first Kool & The Gang LP from 1969: “Let The Music Take Your Mind” is a rolling tour-de-force with some catchy, bluesy organ parts by Kyle and the leader strutting like crazy through the entire song. A bit more relaxing is the Jimmy Heath song “A New Blue”. Ed has worked on three albums by organist John Patton (who recorded some mean stuff for Blue Note in the 60s) and thus, he already honed his skills as a guitarist working with organ. The totally cool and reflective interpretation sounds just right.
There are two originals by the leader here, one is “Rachel’s Step”. After an uneven start, the trio gets into a fierce and powerful performance with Ed bringing out the best Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery trademarks he has to offer and Kyle ad-libbing like mad. But in total, there are too many disruptions on this track. I have always admired the Mal Waldron classic “Soul Eyes” which the three play here in elegant, engaging fashion. And Freddie Hubbard‘s “Little Sunflower” is swinging hard. It’s with the more midtempo material where I think the best spots are: “Central Park West”, the John Coltrane composition, is treated as a charming piece which makes use of various repeated cycles and centers harmonically satisfying around the main motif.
My personal highlight on the album is the other Ed original: “Little Girl Big Girl” somehow goes back to the 70s in style and atmosphere, circa George Benson CTI pre-1976. Laid-back, with a twist, joyous and featuring some of Ed’s most soulful playing on the record. The three remaining tracks are well-chosen covers: the Harold Land piece “Ode To Angela” is brimming with panache, but in a minor key and without any urgency. “In Your Own Sweet Way”, the Dave Brubeck classic, is done as a solid swinger and turns out just fine until after a drum solo it turns into an implied blues jam. And Horace Silver‘s “Peace” is the adequate album closer: organ trio sensibility at its best.