The songs are weightless and weighty at the same time, thanks to the musician’s considerable talent and pedigrees.
Ron Pedley (Hammond b3, Rhodes and Minimoog); John Pondel (electric and acoustic guitars); Matt Bissonette (acoustic and electric basses); Gregg Bissonette (drums); David Rozenblatt and Luis Conte (percussion); The Fat City Horns: Daniel Falcone (trumpet) Eric Tewalt (alto and tenor saxes); Nathan Tanouye (trombone)
Kombo — guitarist John Pondel and organist Ron Pedley — have delivered their first album in twenty years and it has been completely worth the wait. The songs on This is the Good One percolate and play with their insistent and inordinately catchy grooves without ever sacrificing their smooth and effervescent vibe.
Each song sounds like it’s been waiting for years to be played. Bright, and smooth, the music sounds like champagne mixed with chardonnay. There is something so compelling about the melodies in each song on the album. Each song’s lead lines seem borrowed from sophisti-pop, R&B, and soul songs as they swell back into contemporary jazz regardless of which genre they borrow and playfully inhabit.
As a result, there is a consistency between songs as musicians glide from song to song. Their consistency speaks to the rich goldmine of organic timbres and phrasing the musicians across the album.
Calling out a favorite song is difficult! Kombo has delivered an album of the sonic sights and sounds of the sixties and seventies encapsulated in album form and given a smooth jazz sheen.
From its opening notes, This Is the Good One song draws you in and sets the agenda for the entire album. The music grooves and slinks and shimmies without ever losing its smooth identity. Piano and organ weave around it and make the song shimmer. As they are on every song on this album, the musicians in Kombo are uncannily in sync.
In Wind it Up, Pedley’s Hammond organ takes charge. The music stops and starts in joyful unison dancing on such a playful theme. The song’s melody weaves between the solos always reminding the listener where they are in the song. Throughout the album, Hammond’s organ sounds lifted from guitar/organ duos of the past as it dances across this and each song in the collection.
On It’s Daybreak, the bass underpins the infectious melody carried by the organ. This song has the most prominent horns in it and their rising cadence make this another joyful piece. The song is based on the lyrics to Barry Manilow’s song of the song name. It’s Daybreak earned its lineage as Pedley and Pondel met when rehearsing together with Manilow. By the time of the guitar break, I was completely ready for it. Pondel’s closing guitar solo is almost underplayed and ends the song exactly right.
Hitomi’s Rose builds its Bossa Nova rhythm finger-picked acoustic guitar softens the song’s presence. If you blink, you’ll miss the acoustic guitar becoming a wonderfully restrained electric guitar solo and then shifting to acoustic fingerpicking again.
The synthesizer solo and bass solos complement Pondel’s guitar perfectly. It’s all Right’s lead guitar that guides this cover, turning the soulful melody over and over. It captures the positive spirit of Curtis Mayfield’s original.
Let’s Do This gives the listener a funk rhythm guitar and every note lands rights where it should. This, the last song on the album is a gleeful coda for the whole album with both guitar and organ voicing their timeless 1960s-meets-today sound.
As accomplished and pedigreed as the musicians on This is the Good One are, it’s their smooth and tasteful restraint that illumines the pockets and grooves that perpetuate each song and make this album as lush as it sounds.
They heeded Mile’s Davis’ advice to ‘Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there,” to make their notes shimmer so warmly. The image on the album cover sums up This is the Good One: The warm orange colors of this music will make you feel happy.
The songs are weightless and weighty at the same time, thanks to the musician’s considerable talent and pedigrees. The music moves but never loses its smoothness.
Reviewed by Ben Miller