Orange Not Blue is the title of the new jazz CD from the Ray Vanderby Hammond Combo recorded for the Majique Music label. While technically a jazz release, Vanderby and his band clearly have one foot deep in the blues. Ray excels on the Hammond organ, an instrument with its earliest roots sprouting in churches as an alternative to pipe organs. Its use has long been a staple in various musical genres including blues, jazz, rock and gospel. Boasting a distinctive sound, the Hammond (usually the B-3) has been the instrument of choice for many well known artists since its introduction.
Ray Vanderby was born in the Netherlands, but moved with his family at an early age to Australia. He took lessons on a Hammond organ at age eleven, and has been enraptured with its sirens call ever since. Over the years he has released recordings in other genres, but Orange Not Blue, comprised of seven Ray Vanderby original compositions, is his first jazz album. Many of the songs on Orange Not Blue travel similar paths, most sharing a prevalent melancholy theme.
The disc begins with "Troubleshooter," a song that easily could be the theme song for a suave private investigator in a classic film noir. It follows the unwritten law which states you should have one of the strongest cuts lead off an album. "Troubleshooter," features a swaggering, finger snapping style, with the conspicuous swirl of the Hammond organ the primary lead instrument. The steady flowing rhythm section creates the mood with the accompanying swinging horns adding punctuation marks at opportune moments feeding to the ambiance of dark intrigue.
"Near Midnight" is a slow jazz blues number with further ominous undertones and a catchy repeated hook. It provides a vehicle for Ray to hauntingly solo and wail against. "Where The Wind Blows" has a hip bluesy vamp and brings Rocky Rochelli’s jazzy drum-work to the forefront, alongside Ray’s mojo of improvised fast organ runs. Gerry Ramage on trombone and saxophonist Chris Ronan join the song midway through, giving the song a big-band swing feel.
"Hospitalityman" reminds me of someone slowing slinking down a dark alleyway, afraid to move very fast, measuring each solitary step. At first, the horns lead the way, echoed cautiously by the Hammond. Gaining confidence, The Hammond then cockily ventures out to join the horns as they all strut and preen, with drummer Rochelli keeping the song moving forward, throwing in just the right accents and fills.
Centered around an acoustic bass solo, "Senior Citizen Samba" allows each combo member opportunities to add dashes of flavor to the mix along the way. The combo shows a great togetherness and chemistry on this song, each stepping forward, then back, passing the musical baton flawlessly; with Ray, as usual, leading the way.
The title song, "Orange Not Blue," has a classic feel, containing an insistent organ riff. It’s a bit of a companion piece to the opening "Troubleshooter," with a very similar vibe. It again gives, at least to me, the distinct impression that I’m listening to a film noir soundtrack. This may be due, in part, to all the pieces fitting together so well to tell their story.
Clocking in at roughly about 32 minutes Orange Not Blue passes by very quickly. It revels in a retro sound similar to the days of "cool" jazz, while constantly ably covering the basics of organ-combo sparring territory. In the end, the Hammond scores a majority decision; if not quite a technical knock-out.