|Segundo Stanley Hammond Organ Duo at Kansas Smitty’s|
Segundo Stanley Hammond Organ Duo
(Kansas Smitty’s, 25 October 2017. Review by Gigi Williams)
Two of the most in-demand sidemen at the moment came together to celebrate the release of their new organ duo album. Drummer Pedro Segundo and Hammond organist Ross Stanley performed two completely sold-out shows at Kansas Smitty’s. The lively atmosphere and appreciative audience provided a perfect backdrop for what was a world-class performance demonstrating why these two musicians are at the top of their game. It was made clear as I squeezed my way to a table right at the front, that the venue choice was particularly noteworthy because, in the words of the organiser, the duo was “born in 2015 out of a jam session” in the intimate candlelit setting.
I wondered why Stanley and Segundo had decided to release a duo album, not least because of how busy they must be, but also given the success of the Velocity Trio, their band with trombonist Dennis Rollins, which released its most recent album in 2015. However, as soon as the set started it was clear we were in for something very special.
The pair started with the standard I’m Hip (and hip it certainly was) with cool, clear, phrasing from Stanley in his first solo of the night wonderfully complemented by Segundo’s tight yet lyrical swing. They lowered the audience in gently into the hour long set which swung hard.
Next, a piece which particularly demonstrated how well the two work together, accurately called Symbiosis. The combination of an unstoppable left-hand walking bass from Stanley and slick aggressive hits from Segundo really drove this hard bop swinger along at a ridiculously fast pace. This is the eponymous track of their most recent album with Rollins, but the jam session atmosphere made the piece feel more instinctive and visceral than the album. It felt as though the rhythmic hits were at once instinctive and precisely planned. It also gave them much more freedom to extend and stretch out.
It is so rare to hear silence being used effectively, but it was an impressive feature of the set, particularly in Senhor Do Cais where Segundo made sure the audience were giving them the attention they deserved.
Towards the end there was a vocal interlude from singer/songwriter Judith Owen, whom Segundo has toured with in the past. Sultry, smoky vocals packed a punch on her original song Cool Life, which the audience enjoyed very much.
What most struck me about the duo, was their ability to craft and shape their pieces with such care and precision. An exquisite encore rendition of God Only Knows started with elongated and a sparsely accompanied melody from both musicians, but by the climax of the song had transformed into something that was almost orchestral, as Stanley literally pulled out all the stops, and the release of tension was all the more satisfying for it.
They defied convention and came back for a second encore, which they needed after the sublimely beautiful and slow Beach Boys’ number. Segundo’s own tune I See The Joy Now closed the set with an epic New Orleans second-line groove that had a substantial number of the audience on their feet. The set ended on a high for sure, and I left excited to hear the next instalment from them.
It is no wonder why these two musicians are so in-demand. Their playing showed not only immense technical ability, but also huge craftsmanship in engaging with both each other and the audience.