Those organ aficionados who still
fondly recall the heyday of the 1960s Syracuse music scene visited Wise Guys Comedy Club, 426 N. Franklin St., to celebrate the robust sound of their chosen instrument.
Jimmy Cox, the daddy-o to singer-songwriter Ashley Cox,
and an accomplished B3 player in his own right, recounted the retro
days during which he fell in love with the instrument. Drummer Rick Cappotto and guitarist John Latocha both provided a perfectly subtle, contemporary jazz accompaniment to Cox’s cerebral groove.
Cox’s set featured a smattering of Smith
tunes, a hatches-battened, ultra-cool rendition of Cannonball
Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and an ethereal take on the dreamy
standard, “Misty.” Particularly skillful was Cox’s use of the organ’s
foot pedals, which elicit the type of notes usually managed by an
electric bass player in a rock band. While it is generally considered
challenging to play solos, comp jazz chords and pluck bass notes
simultaneously, Cox demonstrated an immense skill with that set of
The Coachmen served as the upbeat focus of the gig, featuring Syracuse New Times photographer and skilled Hammond B3 organist Michael Davis on the keys. The band was originally the backup for a three-piece soul group, The Reflections,
during the 1960s. On hiatus for decades, the Coachmen reunited last
summer to bring back the true-blue spirit of original soul. They have
since scored gigs at area venues including Fat Freddy’s, LeMoyne Manor and Beginnings II.
During a rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” Joe Neri,
the Coachmen’s quixotic frontman and bassist, altered the lyrics as a
shout-out to organist Davis: “Ride, Mikey, ride!” That energetic intro
led Davis through a variety of solos, which riffed on the classic
techniques that give the organ its character.
The group expressed their vocal prowess
during a cover of the Buckinghams’ 1967 reworking of the Adderley hit
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” then let their horns fly during a raucous
run-through of James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” Throughout the performance,
Neri let out gutteral screams that not only evoked a few chuckles, but
demonstrated the sense of classic fun found in rock music that
incorporates the Hammond B3 sound.
Rounding out the afternoon were sets by Gerry Testa’s band Front Street, the duo of Dave Flansburg and Matt Rubenstein, and The Tipp Hillbillies. Emcee Eric Cohen, the music director at WAER-FM 88.3, praised Davis and the other players for warming up the chilly Winterfest event with scintillating, authentic throwbacks.