Paul Moran turns popular classics into jazz masterworks

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Paul Moran is best-known for his work as Van Morrison’s artistic director. Despite the demands of the post he’s held for 25 years, Moran has found time to hone his skills on the organ, flugelhorn and trumpet.

Moran uses those skills on his latest release, “Smokin’ B3 Vol. 2 Still Smokin’.” The album is Moran’s fifth as a leader. “Smokin’ B3 Vol. 2 Still Smokin'” is available Sept. 29.

Classic hits made into jazz

While original works are prized and welcomed, it is sometimes interesting to hear what a seasoned professional does with songs that have already been immensely popular decades earlier.

On “Smokin’ B3,” Moran tackles “Come Together,” “Blueberry Hill” and “Workin’ in the Coal Mine,” among others. Mixed in with the beloved tracks are originals by Moran.

The title of Moran’s album refers to the type of organ he plays. The album also allows Moran to pay homage to organ-playing greats such as Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Richard “Groove” Holmes.

Paul Moran: A record of success

As Van Morrison’s artistic director, Moran played keyboards and brass on several of the iconic singer’s recordings. In addition to his work with Morrison, Moran is well-versed in all popular genres. He developed his skill in other genres by working with notables such as Natalie Cole, Peter Townsend, George Benson, Monty Python and others. His work even appears in video games.

“Smokin’ B3 Vol. 2 Still Smokin'”

“Come Together”

The Beatles’ easily recognizable riffs are made smooth when rendered with an organ. The bass and organ (later in a higher key), work to replicate the song’s vocal line.

I wasn’t expecting Moran’s treatment to be an instrumental. Popular covers of “Come Together” have been hard rock songs that roughed up the vocals and the guitar riffs. Still, there was no singer listed, so I shouldn’t have assumed. At any rate, the organ grooves and flourishes in a way that will call to some listeners’ minds Gospel music. Moran harnesses the Hammond B3’s nuanced power to great effect.

The dancing bass groove is a nice touch and is one of the leftovers from the original. The song ends with a shimmer from almost all of segments of the instrumentation. It sounds appropriate.

Moran’s work throughout this album is strong, flexible and artistic. Listeners can hear how classic songs were interpreted, and the ways in which their quirks are either played up or smoothed out in Moran’s arrangements.

“Smokin’ B3 Vol. 2 Still Smokin'” sounds like the work of someone who understands how popular music works and its relationship with jazz. Moran’s attention to detail will please jazz fans.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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