As you may know, “Papa” John DeFrancesco is father to Joey and John Jr., both of whom are accomplished musicians in their own right. “Papa” was well on his way to a professional career of his own when he set it all aside to manage Joey’s career when the boy began playing professionally (!) at the tender age of eight.

Since his return to performing, “Papa” has released seven albums, beginning with “Doodlin'” in 1992. The album I’m going to discuss today is the 2001 High Note release, “Hip Cake Walk”.

The personnel on “Hip Cake Walk” are:

“Papa” John DeFrancesco, Hammond B3 organ
Joey DeFrancesco, trumpet (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 & 8)
John DeFrancesco Jr., guitar  (tracks 1, 5, 7 & 8)
“Bootsie” Barnes, tenor sax (all tracks except 5)
Rob Landham, alto sax (track 4 only)
Melvin Sparks, guitar (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6 & 9)
Byron Landham, drums (tracks 1, 7 & 8)
Kevin Jones, percussion (tracks1, 2, 3 & 8)

“Hip Cake Walk”, HighNote 2001
This disk virtually screams to be played on a Saturday night, right from the first note of the first track, Lalo Schifrin’s classic “The Cat”. “Papa” and the rhythm section tear through this number, and about two and a half minutes in I swear you can hear someone yelling “Hey!” two or three times in the background. Or maybe I’m hallucinating again, I don’t know. Regardless, “The Cat” definitely sets the pace for the rest of the disk.
By the time “The Cat” is done, you’ll be ready for the comparatively more mellow Miles Davis piece that follows, “Freddie Freeloader”. Notice I said “comparatively more mellow”. Below the deceptively mild surface, Landham is laying down a hot groove and Sparks’ guitar is filling the function one might ordinarily expect a bass to fill, helping keep that groove going. Joey is no Miles Davis, but he does a good job here on trumpet
Another Davis classic, “Milestones” keeps things moving along, with Joey on the trumpet and Rob Landham on alto sax starting it off. Landham’s work on the sax is wonderful, and it leaves you wishing they had utilized him on some of the other songs as well. “Milestones” is a great song, and the group handles it well.
“High Rider” is up next. It’s one of only two DeFrancesco originals on this album, and John Jr. really stands out here. The other of “Papa’s” compositions, “Latin Groove” is also excellent and was, in fact, the last song from this album that I played on “Saturday Night Jazz” before the still-popular SNJ was canceled to make room for a certain someone’s baby, “The Gold Standard”.
Speaking of “Latin Groove”, here it is on YouTube:
Jimmie Smith’s “Back At The Chicken Shack” is elegantly executed with John Jr. once again doing an excellent job on guitar. “Papa” predictably burns through the chart on his B3, and if you’re still seated by the time the song ends, something must be wrong with your legs!
The final track on this disc is the title song, written by the 60’s & 70’s soul jazz B3 player, Don Patterson. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never heard Patterson play the song, but I have to assume that “Papa” more than does it justice. It certainly sounds great.
Another real standout here is the tenor sax player, Bootsie Barnes. He does a great job leading off this one, before fading into the background as “Papa” steps forward, figuratively speaking, and takes charge.
If I had a five star rating system, the album “Hip Cake Walk” would rate a five! This is a great CD, and in my opinion it would make a wonderful addition to any jazz organ lover’s personal Saturday night playlist.

“Papa” John does not seem to have a web site of his own that I can locate. Even his own record label, Savant, provides a link for him that sends you to Papa John’s Pizza instead! 😉

Savant does at least list his albums, and they do provide an online store where you can buy them, if you like.

You can learn more about “Papa” John DeFrancesco and his music on his Facebook page.

Copyright © 2011 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Jazz For A Saturday Night #10: "Papa" John DeFrancesco

  1. Pingback: Jazz For A Saturday Night #46: Donald Vega | jazz for a saturday night

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