The B-3 and Me
Even at the ripe age of 22, Davell Crawford is no stranger to music. He released Let Them Talk, a collection of great R&B songs, in 1995 and is well known around New Orleans for his stellar work as a gospel choir director, singer and pianist. While he has already established himself as a young artist with talent to burn at home, his pedigree goes even further back: His grandfather is the great James "Sugarboy" Crawford, composer of the classic "Jockomo" (recorded and performed by countless artists as "Iko, Iko").
On The B-3 and Me, Crawford demonstrates that not only is he unwilling to rest on his accomplishments thus far in a career that began before his teen years, but that he is willing and able to explore new directions.
By tackling the B-3, an instrument that lately finds itself more often than not relegated to a minor role in jam-heavy rock bands, he not only confronts the legacy of greats like Jimmy McGriff, but also allows his gospel roots to flourish. The exploratory nature of the recording allows him to nourish his hunger for new musical styles. His tremendous staccato delivery coupled with his great breath control and command of his instrument have all the hallmarks of a serious talent.
All of the great B-3 players have had the advantage of tremendous sidemen to help bring to life their musical visions. Like Hank Crawford with McGriff, Clarence Johnson III on the tenor sax is a perfect foil to Crawford’s organ excursions. Just listen to his winding solo on Sugarboy’s "Ooh Wee Sugar" or the rising crescendo that culminates their great take on the standard, "Stormy Weather."
Behind the drum kit is one of New Orleans’ secret weapons. Shannon Powell’s biggest claim to fame may be his long stint with Harry Connick Jr., but his talents have graced the work of artists like Johnny Adams as well. From the slinky funk of "The House That Jack Built" to his blistering control on Ray Charles’ "Hallelujah I Just Love Her So," he shines.
A guest appearance by Crsecent City vocalist Germaine Bazzle on the standard "Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone" emerges as a vehicle for the band to show its own chops, breaks midway into a scatting tour-de-force and concludes like an instant classic.
There are a couple of stumbles. The Crawford original, "Uptown," starts slow, suggesting a meandering jam, but it redeems itself with a full-bore sax solo from Johnson and tremendous stick work from Powell. In the hands of lesser musicians, this never would have made the final cut.
The B-3 and Me demonstrates Crawford’s depth as an organ player and is a showcase for the talents of two sidemen that will be leaders to be reckoned with really soon.
— Jay Mazza