Swinging into the Monterey Jazz Festival’s final evening, German organist Barbara Dennerlein wastes no time in digging a deep soul-jazz groove. “Easygoing,” an original tune with a cool “Killer Joe” walking vibe, finds Dennerlein stretching out almost instantly with a supercharged solo that sounds like it requires three hands. And then, as if to make sure all cylinders are firing at full capacity, she immediately leaps into a second solo, using nothing but the bass pedals at her feet.
Having thus established her total mastery of organ-jazz conventions, Dennerlein then proceeds to shatter the mold. Without ever sacrificing the almighty groove, she calmly guides her trio into dense thickets, modernist harmonies and odd meters. Dennerlein possesses awesome technique and a prodigious feel for the dynamic range of her instrument, varying the feel throughout each tune from a whisper to a scream.
An accomplished pipe organist as well, Dennerlein frequently makes the B3 mimic its larger cousin, at one point summoning a remarkable 5 second blast like a Bach fugue, a radio soap opera and a sci-fi movie score rolled into one. These are the best moments of the set, with Dennerlein and guitarist Brian Pardo crackling with the concentrated power and focus of a laser beam, rapturous and unrelenting.
Pardo begins with a cool West Coast sound but quickly detours into raucous blues-blaster territory, leaning back on his stool as his fingers calmly conjure fire. It’s all supported with confident spirit by drummer Paul van Wageningen, who never calls attention to himself but brings surging momentum to every song.