Jazz Porn

Joey DeFrancesco slides his big organ inside you

Beyond Fats Waller's earliest experiments, the organ would seem too brash for emotionally cool post-bop jazz. But Jimmy Smith blew such notions off the map in the mid-'50s with his still-startling work on the Hammond; he remains to this day—and probably evermore—the figure most associated with jazz organ. The mind-boggling speed of the blues-and-gospel attack and sheer exuberance of his playing were a revolution and a revelation. In the 1960s, Larry Young revolutionized the instrument's role once again with a highly improvised, free-jazz sensibility that owed much to the anarchic innovations of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Others have hovered—Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Groove Holmes among them—but Smith and Young remain the twin towers on the instrument.

At age 30, JOEY DEFRANCESCO has been the new kid with the big organ for close to 10 years. The knock against him: he's nothing more than a Smith clone. While that isn't a completely unfair assessment (he has recorded two Smith tribute albums; credit the guy for intellectual honesty), DeFrancesco's technique is stunning and his enthusiasm refreshing—just like Papa Jimmy. He has also brought his own ethnic sensibility to the table: 1999's Joey DeFrancesco's Goodfellas was a campy but highly entertaining album of such Guido favorites as "Volare," "Fly Me to the Moon" and "O Solo Mio." DeFrancesco's chops are impeccable, and his sense of humor imbues his music. He may not be a barrier-shattering heavyweight on the order of Smith or Young, but he's as good as it gets in this, jazz's Age of the Parrot. DeFrancesco has long been a regular at Steamers Cafe. Get up and go-ey with Joey this week on Friday and Saturday nights. (Note: DeFrancesco's Sunday show was canceled.)

KOKO TAYLOR is a queenly presence, a throwback to the early days of recording when singers like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Ethel Waters dominated the blues market—before the now-clichéd image of a mannish boy shouting and playing guitar overshadowed everything else. It was the prelapsarian matriarchy. She is, in the best sense of the word, a diva. Bedecked in gold and jewels, carrying herself as royalty, singing in a voice so power-packed you can feel it in your bones and vibrating in your innards, Taylor is perhaps the last living link to the classic, female-blues tradition. At age 64 and in relatively frail health, her voice shows some wear and tear, but that only adds character to her sound, like the scars in rich, tanned leather. As she once sang, Taylor's got what it takes to make the lion lie down with the lamb, and you should all line up as good little sheep and prepare to be slaughtered when Taylor tears down the Coach House Friday night.

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I caught guitarist CHRIS DUARTE live at the Coach House a couple of years ago and had a hard time understanding why he's not, you know, like, famous as hell or something. He's from Austin, where they grow white blues gods like beef cattle; his rock-influenced music is inspired and challenging; he's a good-looking fellow; and he puts on a show so sweaty it's like being in the first row at a prizefight. Duarte's power-trio blooze-rawk was so energized that I was reminded of Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Jeff Beck Group—units that used blues as a springboard rather than an anchor. Therein, most likely, lies the rub—Duarte is too unconventional to please purists and too down-home to satisfy rock fans. Or perhaps it's because Duarte is a truly horrible singer. Me, I do my best to ignore the caterwauling and take in the truly imaginative guitar work which dominates the show anyway. Par-tay with Duar-tay Sunday night at the Coach House.

RUSTY ZINN is a big, redheaded, white guy with in a pink suit who plays the blues. Other than that, there's nothing unusual about this man beyond the fact that his guitar playing is consummately tasteful, simple and refined. In this respect, he's the anti-Duarte—old-fashioned rather than resourceful, tradition-minded rather than experimental. I approve of Zinn's approach to the blues as well as Duarte's. In an age when post-Stevie Ray "watch-me-shred" cretins with nothing to say dominate blues, Zinn treads lightly and elegantly. He's also a fine singer—again, quite unlike Duarte—whose near-soprano tone at its best recalls J.B. Lenoir. Catch Zinn at the Blue Cafe on Sunday night, and if Jesse Helms shows up bearing a Confederate flag, spill a drink in his lap for me. Joey DeFrancesco performs at Steamers Cafe, 138 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-8800. Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m. $6; Koko Taylor plays at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Fri., 8 p.m. $25; Chris Duarte performs at the Coach House. Sun., 8 p.m. $15; Rusty Zinn plays at the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Sun., 10 p.m. $4.
 
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