Jazz Review: Kevin Coelho - Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3

A teenager with an old soul tackles the Hammond B3.
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Kevin Coelho - Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B316-year-old Kevin Coelho was originally drawn to the Hammond B3 thanks to Booker T & the MGs. A recording of “Green Onions” sealed the deal and the kid was on his way through the likes of Jimmy McGriff and Don Patterson. R&B from the 60s also proved food for Coelho’s soul.

With Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3, the teenager from California gets to rev his engines.

Having started piano school at age six, the curiosity came early. At age 11, he was into the organ and had a slew of jazz teachers, including Randy Masters and Wil Blades. Master classes came next, with Bennett Pastor, Larry Goldings and Joshua Redman among his teachers. Coelho’s education continued with performances at the Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz Program and the Stanford Jazz Residency.

Without question, Coelho has the scholastic footing to rip it up on the jazz stage. His touch is steady and, as noted by producer Tony Monaco, his left-hand bass really helps give the music its driving force. Backed by guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson, Coelho takes to Funkengruven in style.

The title track, written by the teen, is pretty forthright blues. Unfortunately, like many of the pieces on the record, it has the inclination to drop into patterns and doesn’t feel overly passionate. Its swing comes more out of design and less out of desire. While Coelho is practiced and sophisticated, that “It” factor is ostensibly developing.

The same goes for most of the record, with pieces like “Dock of the Bay” scarcely warming to its full potential. Coelho plays some decent riffs and has good understanding of the classic, but the song lacks soul. His soloing is on-point and all the boxes are filled in, but its dearth of emotional substance is palpable.

Coelho also pays tribute to McGriff with “McJimmy.” The track has bounce and a trace of gospel flavour, but seems to be holding back – Jackson’s animated drum solo notwithstanding.

Indeed, the Hammond B3 is an interesting instrument for a teenager to latch on to. Coelho has marvellous respect for his instrument and is a very gifted performer, but the clout is absent and the energy that comes with truly enthusiastic playing is missing. He is undoubtedly a player to watch, though, and that counts for an awful lot in the wild world of B3 driving.