WBGO Radar

Judd Nielsen: Blossom Showers

Judd Nielsen album Blossom Showers

The organ's place in our culture has many expressions - celebratory, fiery, hypnotic, exuberant, joyous, sad, playful, earthy.

To some it's church, to some it's the old roller rink, to some Dave "Baby" Cortez with the top down and a full tank of gas.

To some, the seventh inning stretch at a ball game. To jazz fans, it's simply one of the most soulful ways to get the musical message across.

Thomas "Fats" Waller played organ at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem where his father was preacher. A young Count Basie would accompany the silent films on the organ at the theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey where he grew up.

Some folks are  lucky enough to remember bars with the organ raised high in the middle of the room where nightly wall sweats were standard fare.

Or maybe a visit to Rudy Van Gelder's famed recording studio where countless classic organ records were made, where the player stepped up into that magnificent instrument - like a 1957 Chrysler Imperial, complete with fins and tire kit.

For the rest of us there's the sense memory that touches through records made by Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes, Milt Buckner, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Charles Earland, "Wild" Bill Davis, Bill Doggett, "Brother" Jack McDuff, Sonny Phillips and Larry Young, among others of note.

But this is no museum piece. Rhoda Scott, Joey Defrancesco, Doug Carn, Mike Ledonne, Radam Schwartz, Kyle Koehler and Jared Gold pay it forward with a back at the chicken shack attack to make us all appreciate from where it came.

Add to this list organist Judd Nielsen, a Park Slope, Brooklyn native who's jazz loving father and funk loving mother would set him on course to his debut recording, "Blossom Showers."

Sit-ins with Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Melvin Sparks and early exposure to The Meters when he attended Loyola University in New Orleans would seal the feel.

Nielsen, a La Guardia High School for Performing Arts grad, hooks up here with Queens native Austin Williamson on drums and Manhattan born Solomon Hicks on guitar, to share the special organ combo feel many may have missed the first time around.

"A Bit Of Grease" is a group composition, confirming Judd found the right soul mates to percolate his intention with  boiling conclusion.

"Jimmy Who" indelibly links the listener to the McGriff and Smith nights fans still talk about.  It's a real nice vehicle for guitarist Hicks to show his worth.

The title track, "Blossom Showers" was a Nielsen inspired groove from a walk through the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (you can see them behind the model on the cover).

"Kingsboro Walk" shows the comfort these three have for this music. Williamson, Hicks and the leader easily pass the baton on this funky stroll.

"Love Forces Of You", a lost love lament, gained momentum through numerous incarnations before arriving at this statement. Again, the trio moves us, and reminds us how a bad time can have a good evolution, building the tune to a soulful declaration.

Closing time at Smoke, a club in New York City, would introduce Judd to saxophonist Matt Corillo from Kansas City, who would get the call for the closer  "Pleadin' Time." A slow blues number, and the perfect way to end the time with this recording.

If this initial offering is an indicator, there is certainly more to come.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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