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Album Review

Organ combo historians might be the only ones who remember Bobby Pierce, the Columbus, OH native and peer of Don Patterson, Eddie Baccus, and Hank Marr. His only other album for the Cobblestone/Muse family of record labels came out back in 1972, Introducing Bobby Pierce. It's long out of print, a collectors item for sure, and a reminder of the chitlin' circuit club scene where his central Ohio home was a focal point. At the time of this recording, he is based in Los Angeles, playing music in jazz, gospel, or classical settings after being devoted to a life apart from music for the better part of four decades. Pierce returns with this tasteful set of swinging originals and soulful covers with a formidable band, including the excellent tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, guitarist Frank Potenza, and drummer Clarence Johnston. They give Pierce more than ample support, and in fact exceed expectations of regular sidemen. Pierce tends to be laid-back, but when he cuts loose and jams out — you know he is redoubtable, as are his talented bandmates. Tunes like the bop-oriented title track and the soul-pop ballad "Seems so Long" with the leader's vocals, definitely reflect how Pierce had been off the scene, while the cool blues "Bobby's Back" is representative of their unified teamwork, and how the organist missed grooving. Woodard is a sound, fundamental saxophonist who is a joy to hear; he should be more often. His solos stand out above the post-Sonny Rollins crowd, but on the funky off-minor rocker "One for Duff & Dink," he commands the attention he deserves. Potenza is also a world-class player whose taste level ranks right up there with peers like Pat Martino and Russell Malone. When he swaps lines with Woodard on the nine-minute swinger "Invitation," you know he and Woodard are true experts in the soul-jazz style. Pierce himself lays in the cut, poised and reserved for the most part, but during the classic Sacha Distel ballad "The Good Life," he springs into action with a flurry of notes that fly in the face of the slower pace, as if the good life is indeed what he is living. The funky boogaloo "Frenchie" moves to a jazzier swing, where Pierce again is a bit more animated and forceful. "John Brown Body" takes the group into an area of church orientation where the leader has been centered in recent times, frequently quoting Nat King Cole's "Send for Me" in the process. Hopefully, Bobby Pierce will do another recording sooner than the some 35 years it took to produce this one, and it will be just as satisfying. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

The Long Road Back, Bobby Pierce
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  • $7.92
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Blues
  • Released: May 19, 2009

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