One of the steps to becoming a band leader is to drop your inhibitions and find collaborators who play the music that you want to make. Though he has music in his blood carrying from two generations of bandleaders before him, drummer Greg Joseph initially found it difficult to grab the reigns of his own ensemble. It took finding the right voices in Larry Goldings’s Hammond organ and Steve Cardenas’s guitar to express his joyful music, which Joseph presents for the first time on Drop The Rock.
As a young drummer, Joseph came up under the direction of his father’s baton in a wedding band. Joseph wanted something different than his father’s workaday approach to music making. Eventually, the drummer made it to New York and found success in different groups, including those of Kevin Hays, Brian Charette, Binky Griptite, and Michael Bates, in addition to working with Tony Scherr, Chris Potter, Gregoire Maret, and Steve Wilson.
Joseph discovered the infectious sound of the Hammond organ during his early twenties with Wes Montgomery’s Portrait of Wes. But it was hearing Goldings on the B3 that solidified Joseph’s love of the organ trio sound, a soulful sound that reeks of authenticity, swinging on bebop tunes, blues changes, or soul classics. Joseph heard Cardenas with drummer Joey Baron’s Killer Joey ensemble and was immediately struck by the guitarist’s warmth and musicality.
After years of performing with a variety of organ groups, Joseph decided that it was time to get his own ensemble together. That forced him to let go of his inhibitions in order to put together his dream project and band, thus the title of his new recording, Drop The Rock.
The drummer recruited his heroes, Goldings and Cardenas, for his trio, which he named The Right Back, after his blues bumper tune. Joseph also enlisted the help of keyboardist Henry Hey to produce the recording. Hey’s work with his bands Rudder and Forq provide perfect examples of groove-based instrumental music that grabs listeners, as it is a truly impressive feat to make wordless music listeners connect to.
The project was delayed for some time due to the pandemic but was finally realized in July 2022 when the group was able to assemble at The Bunker in Brooklyn, New York, Goldings coming right from a tour with James Taylor and Cardenas from a rare tour of Chad.
The recording begins with Goldings’s “Mozam-BBQ,” a challenging boogaloo piece that exists in that space between straight and swung eighth notes, highlighting Joseph’s melodic touch. The trio captures the slow burn, pulsing groove of Stax’s soul sound on Hey’s “Sauté.” The beautifully sanctified “Nina’s Lullaby” interprets an improvised lullaby that Joseph’s daughter sang to her pet fish, Crabby. There is a flamenco tinge to Golding’s “Paco’s Theme,” a piece that swings naturally in a 5/4 meter.
Joseph pays homage to Ray Charles with “Ain’t That Love,” the trio echoing the perfection of the soul great’s delivery, which is followed by a rare cover of Joni Mitchell’s “In France They Kiss on Main Street.” The title track is a funky exercise on a 3/2 clavé pattern, whose martial feel reminds listeners of The Meters or Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Play It Back.” The band’s namesake tune, “Right Back Blues,” is a fast swing piece that sounds like a perfect set closer.
It is difficult to get past one’s history and hang ups to achieve a goal. Putting together The Right Back band with Larry Goldings and Steve Cardenas to record Drop The Rock has been one of the highlights of Greg Joseph’s life, the recording becoming a testament to generations of hard work in the trenches of the music business.
released July 7, 2023
Greg Joseph - drums
Larry Goldings - Hammond organ
Steve Cardenas - guitar