In the intimate black and white: elder statesman of rocking organ serves up simple yet sophisticated delights.
He started out as a pure piano player who led a jazz trio back in the ’60s, but Brian Auger found fame, if not fortune, as a master of Hammond, and though there was an occasional acoustic cut adding color and contrast to his albums, the idea of recording an entire set of unplugged performances never really occurred to the veteran – until his drummer son Karma not-so-inadvertently preserved for posterity the 2018 concert they and bassist Dan Lutz staged in LA. The little ensemble’s repertoire for that gig could be called a labor of love if it didn’t flow so effortlessly, Auger augmenting personal favorites – well-known jazz gems – with fresh flavors and flurries of notes instead of revisiting his own back catalogue, and the results are amazing.
There’s a great measure to Brian’s flight of fantasy: where lesser mortals would opt for pieces which originally belonged to the ivories domain, he takes such brass-tacked classics as Miles’ “All Blues” and Dizzy’s “A Night In Tunisia” – the former a showcase for Lutz’s supple runs and the latter an opener here, graced by a quote from Bizet – to pastures new and sends sensual ripples through familiar tunes to turn elegy into romp and vice versa. Auger may elegantly swirl “Creepin'” around the groove, but it’s the rhythm section’s moves that propel his vignettes towards playful jive and fuel “It Ain’t Necessarily So” – the most energetic number on display – while skittering keyboards delicately rock “Little Sunflower” and, having paid a brief visit to the Hall of the Mountain King, align their improv with nocturnal mood.
Given cinematic tone, the ruminative “Chelsea Bridge” will start in monochrome before its true colors transpire, yet “There Is No Greater Love” sees its patina stripped in favor of lightness that only a stroll down memory lane can provide. Still, nothing can beat Brian’s original “Victor’s Delight” – dedicated to his colleague, English jazzman Feldman – in terms of Latin-tinctured effervescence, something defying Auger’s age and challenging gravity. Aa a result, “Full Circle” is much more than his return to the days of yore; here’s an album making him forever young. A thing of rare beauty.