Hypnotic, the debut album of Russian born, Brooklyn based guitarist, Gene Segal, reinvents the electric organ trio for the new era. “I concentrated on two ideals when making this record. The first was writing compositions showcasing the many different musical influences in my life, while maintaining a clear flow and “group sound” where style changes don’t sound drastic or forced. I think of Hypnotic, in part, as a tribute record to some of the musicians whose work has become an integral part of my life. The second was finding musicians versatile and strong enough to pull off this concept and still add their personality to the mix. I’m very happy with the outcome of this project, from the get-go the guys embraced and supported my vision and really worked hard on learning and internalizing the music. This band sounds tight and very responsive to one another instead of a typical pickup group situation which happens all too often in jazz,” explained Gene Segal.
True to Gene’s description, the music successfully flows through styles from odd time signature grooves to head-bopping funk and Afro-beat rhythms to melodic ballads and swinging blues. This musical journey showcases some of New York’s brightest talent: Sam Barsh, Matt Kane, Mike Sim, Jonathan Powell, and Bryan Beninghove. At first a trio, the band mutates into a sextet featuring three horns with sharp arrangements by Gene Segal and breath-taking solos by these world-class players taking the music to a very different space with a deeply passionate, high energy, performance by all. Hypnotic’s appeal reaches beyond your average jazz listener to anyone who appreciates music played with heart, soul and groove.
Born in Russia and raised in New York by immigrant parents, Gene Segal brings a defined presence along with some formidable skills. A one-time student of guitarists Scott Henderson and Joe Diorio, his voice encompasses a rock and blues aesthetic with impressive technique via his lessons with jazz masters Vic Juris and John Abercrombie. Yet preconceptions should be thrown out the door, because Hypnotic is a definitive debut of Segal's sharp abilities s a leader, composer, and performer.
The music is based on an organ-centric trio with Segal's band mates, drummer Matt Kane and keyboardist Sam Barsh. There's a raw edge to the trio's sound, which is augmented by a horn section on two tracks, as the musicians serve up a unique smorgasbord ranging from the title track's old school 1970s funk, some psychedelic rock on "Captain Chaos" and the tender narrative of "Quiet."
Although the ten tracks vary stylistically, the band's fun and loose energy is ingrained in the music. This is most evident in the groove-fest called "Alef," which puts down African rhythms, soulful horn vamps, Segal's nasty riff and some trippy keyboarding from Barsch. The swinging "Blues Again" is uncut bop, with grinding organ and a nice solo spot from Kane; it seems to be an obligatory jazz track, but again shows Segal's chops in almost any setting.
More compositions with the horns would have been nice, but the trio excels, in particular, on the slower pieces such as "Four Flights Up," with Barsch's delicate Pedal work and "Freefall," where Segal starts with a touching solo before the tune develops a lovely and affecting melody. Segal's playing on this tune is undeniable—pure, earthy and moving—and the added touch of his echo effects on the coda also mirrors a lingering sentiment to repeated listens of this enjoyable release.
- Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz
Segal is a Russian-born guitarist raised in Brooklyn, New York. He's studied with Vic Juris, Gene Bertocini and John Abercrombie and worked with trumpeter Ryan Kisor, drummer Ted Poor and bassist Steve LaSpina (to name but 3.) His debut CD features a tight trio including organist Sam Barsh and drummer Matt Kane (plus a 3-piece horn section on 2 tracks.) The guitarist plays in several distinct styles - he can be quite melodic and soulful on ballads such as "Free Fall" and "Quiet", he can rip off rapid licks with bluesy bent notes as on "Red Eyes" and "Truth" plus he's an active rhythm guitarist. Barsh, who's worked with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Jeff Parker, Boyz II Men, Bobby McFerrin, The Brand New Heavies, Robin Eubanks, Debbie Friedman, Branford Marsalis, and many others, adds great depth and his manic yet soulful organ sound to the tunes (dig his "gospel music" solo on "Free Fall" and the Southern Soul feel of "In The Morning.") His keyboard bass-lines really offer Segal a good bottom. Kane is an active and funky drummer who's work with a number of Brazilian musicians but regularly crosses over to funk, rock, hip hop and even country music gigs. Saxophonists Mike Sim (tenor) and Bryan Beninghove (tenor, soprano), along with trumpeter Jonathan Powell, add strong solos and background licks on the "poppin'" "Alef" and the heavily blues-inflected title tune. Sim's effects-laden tenor solo on the latter tune reminds me of the jazz-funk excursions of the earlier 1970s, such as George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic aggregation.
Despite the fact that the music has a loose, club-gig, feel, most of the songs have well-constructed melodies. Segal certainly has his own, rather loose-limbed, style and works well with his band, giving Barsh plenty of solo space and Kane the freedom to lay back or "kick hard." They even channel Tony Williams' Lifetime on the group improvisation "Captain Chaos." "Hypnotic" is a solid debut from a guitarist/composer who shows great promise....
- Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant
The balance of the CD is weighted heavily towards ballads and blues. A lovely, rippling, unaccompanied guitar solo opens "Free Fall," which develops into a sweet ballad with a particularly mellow and warm organ solo from Barsh. "Quiet" is very similar, though without the solo guitar intro and with a gospel-infused climax, featuring another great solo by Barsh. More rewarding, but still in a relatively mellow modern jazz vein, is "Four Flights Up," a dark, intimate piece that reminded me of those great Jan Hammer-John Abercrombie collaborations on ECM. "Blues Again" is an uptempo nod to the sort of sound you'd hear on those great old Prestige and Blue Note organ trio dates from the late 50s and early 60s. Segal has clearly spent some time studying this style, though he steers clear of obvious references and does a nice job presenting his own take on it. "Truth" closes Hypnotic out on a sunny, funky note, one that reminds me of the salad days of John Scofield's mid-1980s quartet with Dennis Chambers and Gary Grainger. Hypnotic is an excellent debut by a fine young jazz guitarist with a lot to say and a great backing band. I'm looking forward to more by Segal.
- David Wayne, Jazz Review
Segal blends funk, rock and blues influences in with his jazz approach, while Barsh is the Energizer bunny - supplying endless kinetic energy and surprising directions and sounds on up-tempo tunes like "Red Eyes." The band proves they can slow it down as well, as on "Free Falls" and the aptly-named "Quiet" - where Segal's impressive technique is countered by Barsh's restrained organ work and sensitive drumming by Kane. The band throughout is very tight... A solid debut recording from a talented and promising young guitarist and composer.
- Brad Walseth, Jazz Chicago
... A straight-up soul-jazz record would have been just fine if played well, but Segal used this format to carry out his compositions that bring more to the table than merely simple, extended blues vamps. The challenge he set up for himself was to use his own pen to make something as firmly locked into a template as organ jazz and make it sound a little bit atypical, a little bit fresh.
- Pico, Something Else
A delightful blend of sharp arrangements and breathtaking solos fill this outstanding album!
- Bob DeCristoforo, Boston Post Gazette
Snaky rhythms of Ethiopian pop and Afrobeat wind their way into the traditional jazz organ trio on Russian-born, Brooklyn-based guitarist Segal's debut. When the three horns join in, it's just more merry and groovaholic.
- Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Province
Drawing from his roles as a guitarist, composer and bandleader, Gene Segal produces an erotic compilation on his new recording Hypnotic. Featuring the squiggling lines of organist Sam Barsh, the sinuous phrasing of saxophonists Bryan Beningham and Mike Sim, and the searing wails of trumpet player Jonathan Powell and the form-fitting beats of drummer/percussionist Matt Kane, Hypnotic is packed with contemporary jazz content that furnaces high energy emission in every crevasse. The opening track "Red Eyes" communicates with the rapport of an organ trio as Segal's guitar, Barsh's organ and Kane's drumming interface in a series of raptures and ebbing motions that give the tune a breatinning quality. The horns have a fleshy tone in the e title track as they intermittently bellow boldly and rescind to a calming surf. The interaction between the horns and ruffling guitar chords balance the ostentatious with the muted hues of the organ. The compositions are ever changing juxtaposing various styles from the parries and thrusts of avant garde and experimental expressions to the melodic fusion of chamber jazz and guitar-sculptured folk. The tracks are keeled on an axis formed by the spiraling motions of the guitar chords and rhythmic drumming. The group travels through episodes of Afro-inspired rhythms in "Free Fall," swinging blues motifs in "Blues Again," and soothing ballads lantern by the mellow tones of the folksy-tinged guitar chords of "In The Morning." The group does not rely on a formulaic approach to the tracks but performs from off the cuff decorating the main themes with fragrant improvisations. Hypnotic blends typical chamber jazz elements with extraordinary mutations. The compositions are a product of the six personalities who come together on the recording creating a partnership that is amenable and encourages individuality which allows the progressions to grow naturally.
- Susan Frances, Jazz Times
I'm continually impressed by the high quality of music sent for review these days... this CD is from a Brooklyn-based jazz guitarist (originally from Russia) who has put together an excellent sextet... jazz fans will love his all-original music, as did I! Each & every track is packed with the kind of vibrant energy that only can come from a person who is fully engaged in life! Gene's excellent guitar is joined by organ from Sam Barsh (I'm just lovin' his style), drums & percussion by Matt Kane, tenor sax from Mike Sim, both tenor & soprano by Bryan Beninghove, & rounded out by trumpet from Jonathan Powell. There's a rockin' undercurrent of uptown funkiness that can't be resisted, especially on pieces like "Blues Again"... Barsh's exceedingly talented organ playing is a perfect compliment to Segal's kickin' leads, & at 5:25, it's long enough to make you get on up & step to it! "Alef" leads in with a great call/response funk riff, & when the horns start doing counterpoint, you'll be groovin' for sure! My favorite on the CD, though was the last track, "Truth"; each player has a part to play, & they clearly are in tune enough not to be steppin' all over each other... Gene's guitar has some scorching leads here, too, which is probably why I dug it so much! I expect I'll be hearing a lot more from Segal after this stunning debut effort... keep your ears on him, to be sure! I give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this one, as well as an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.91
- Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation
Here we find a transplanted ,Russian born guitarist reinventing the organ trio interpolating some free jazz with be bopping and blues into the kind of head stew that college kids who want to dig jazz without getting into old man jazz will enjoy firing a blunt off to. Certainly too polyrhythmic for moldy figs, this is an example of next wave jazz in an energetic state.
- Midwest Record
The durability of the electric organ trio is immediately apparent from this debut album by Russian-born, New York-based guitarist Gene Segal. Although the concept harks back to an earlier time in jazz, the manner in which Gene approaches the music here is very much of today. Gene's guitar is ably aided by the organ of Sam Barsh and the drums of Matt Kane. Also on hand on some tracks to vary the ensemble sound and deliver fine solos are trumpeter Jonathan Powell, and saxophonists Mike Sim and Bryan Beninghove. Although the aural effect is very much of today, the solid groove of past organ trios is consistently apparent not only when it is just the three men but also when others are on hand. Indeed, the tightness of the larger groups is striking.
- Bruce Crowther, Swing2bop
The sound tends towards fusion. Segal seems influenced by rock, particularly in his occasional use of effects, although he does not copy any of the genre's overdone riffs. The two songs with the horns, the title track and "Alef," are both funk-based workouts nearly 10 minutes each. They do not have the repetition of funk, though, using the time for various solos. The best tunes (to my ears, anyway) are the slower songs like "Four Flights Up" (nine minutes long) and "In The Morning," where Segal uses a rounder tone.
As a guitarist [Segal] seems as much influenced by Pat Metheny as by Wes Montgomery or Grant Green, but he meshes well with the organ. The closest [the group] come to a retro groove is on “Blues Again”; elsewhere they remind of Jan Hammer/John Abercrombie. The effects used by tenorist Mike Sim take me back to the Varitone days. Nice balance between ballads, straight-on and funky stuff. An impressive debut.
- Larry Hollis, Cadence