Joining Paterson on this album is the Power (George Fludas – drums) and the Glory (Peter Bernstein – guitar). What a trio! Every solo is a treat and the unison playing is tight.
Taking on classics and Paterson’s originals, the trio is imaginative and creative in the Blues-laced Jazz. Plus, listening to the rhythm section of drums and Paterson’s kicking bass on the B3 is exciting stuff.
In Neil Tesser’s excellent liner notes Paterson states his enjoyment in being “the bass player, which is great. Even when I was just learning the piano, I would often walk a bass line with my left hand…And organ allows me to really show off my strengths, to expand on what was already my own style—the walking bass, the combination of tone and rhythm—and to emphasize Blues, Soul and Gospel. My favorite Jazz has always mixed those together.”
He proves that well and often throughout all of “For Once in My Life.” His Chicago-flavored Blues and New York Jazz with Philly soul show the influences of the three cities that have cast such an illuminating light on Paterson.
Again in the liner notes, Tesser begins with “This is a tale of three cities.” And so it is.
The album opens with Ray Bryant’s “Cubano Chant.” George Fludas jumps into the Cuban rhythms as the introduction and propulsion of the track.
Sure enough, that bass line laid down by Paterson is powerful and works well alongside Fludas. Peter Bernstein’s guitar is Blues-cool flavored Jazz and he is a smooth set-up of Fludas’ drum solo. The conclusion from the trio is gorgeous.
“I’ll Close My Eyes” (Billy Reid) is a classic tune that is beautifully handled by the trio. Fludas’ brushes and Bernstein’s strumming are a warm backdrop for the popping punctuation of the B3. Bernstein’s guitar solo is lyrical and charming. Paterson, however, keeps up the emotional quality of the piece.
Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is hallmarked by the Steve Gadd military cadence. Fludas completely abandons Gadd and strikes off on another pattern. It becomes an entirely different song. Yes, the B3 and guitar follows near to Simon’s vocal lines but they work it from different angles and, honestly, they create an arrangement superior to the original.
Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me a River” doesn’t venture too far afield of the original but the tempos and instrumentation make for excellent diversion. Paterson owns this one.
Unless you’ve been on Mars for the last fifty years (and even that is not a guarantee), you’ve heard Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life.” Paterson took on this piece, using it for the title track of the album, perhaps to describe his once in a life (so far) use of the organ.
The melodic line certainly follows Stevie but Fludas makes it swing with Paterson and Bernstein smoothing it out. Then—oh, yeah—here comes the Gospel. Followed by a moment of samba before Bernstein’s lyrical celebration. And you have to pay attention to Fludas’ backing of that incredible Paterson performance.
Sonny Rollins’ “Decision” is another rhythmic exploration like “Cubano Chant” before. For all of that, the melodic lines are fine and memorable.
This followed by Horace Silver’s “Nutville.” This may be the rhythmic highwater mark of the whole album. Fludas’ plays like his throne is on fire and Paterson’s bass is in agreement. B3 and guitar are splendid in their melodic expression. This is the tune that sticks in your head.
That is, until you hear the Paterson original, “Blues for C.F.” C.F. is Chris Foreman, the organ master who, according to Paterson, showed him “what the instrument is capable of.” Smoking hot Blues, “Blues for C.F.” is a fond tribute to the talents and inspiration of the Chicago Blues giant.
One small touch I really admired was that the track faded out, as if to signify the ongoing inspiration from Chris Foreman.
It is followed by another Paterson original, Near Miss.” Fludas’ understated colors are an excellent foundation for the sweeping melodic work of Bernstein. Paterson has written a piece of harmonic beauty with rich tones and warm delivery.
“We’ll Be Together Again” (Fischer/Laine) is wistful with an ever-so-slight touch of melancholy. It is slow and hopeful and very emotional. The even pacing gives Paterson ample room to brightly paint a future of what may be against Bernstein’s view of what will be.
Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” concludes the album cheerfully and in a lively way. It is colorful and energetic and the trio carries it off wonderfully.
Ben Paterson’s “For Once in My Life” is well-chosen with originals and classics that allow him to shine a bright light on his talents as a composer and arranger. In this, his debut foray into the Hammond B3, he brings the brilliant talents of Peter Bernstein and George Fludas who also take ownership of the music. Together, this trio gathers from a wide net of influences that make this something special. Dear God, let there be more from these guys.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl