A cure for the drudgery of commuting? Maybe not. But a visit to “Haymarket Station” is bound to provide welcome diversion for fans of jazz organ combos—a sweet spot, as it happens, for guitarist Aaron Stroessner. There’s no mistaking the deep affection he holds for the Hammond-powered subgenre, but that alone scarcely accounts for the album’s vitality, soulfulness and, perhaps most of all, its quirky charm. More than anything else, the session’s appeal derives from Stroessner’s thoroughly engaging themes and his distinct flair for creating colorful mood shifts that never fail to hit the mark. (Not coincidentally, he penned each of the 10 tunes)
There are resonating blues streaks, of course, but there’s plenty more: boppish jaunts and chromatic luster; cleverly tweaked samba and reggae grooves; noir-esque tints and vibrant soul riffs; Tele twang, pedal steel-like interludes, and shimmering balladry. What you won’t find is Stroessner flexing his fingers or deploying pedal effects merely for the sake of it. Though he varies his attack throughout the album, he’s an economical player, keeping his motifs compact enough that they can fit in just one or two fingering positions. Check out, for example, the slinky shuffle “Ocho Rios,” which sounds as if it were tailored for an episode of Better Call Saul,” or the delightfully breezy “Blue Shoe Samba.” All the while, organist Kevin Lloyd is a worthy foil and frequent sparkplug, especially during the funk/Caribbean excursions vigorously driven and accented by drummer Andrew Wray and bassist Mitchell Benson.
-Mike Joyce, JazzTimes
“Haymarket Station” is a showcase for guitarist Aaron Stroessner’s considerable song-writing skill, monster chops and eclectic taste. The 10 originals range from the locomotive power of the opener, “Amtrak,” to the tropical heat of “Kief,” the reggae-tinged “Ocho Rios” and the toe-tapping “Blue Shoe Samba,” from the fusion nod to Jeff Beck on “There and Back,” to the lovely homage to MJQ on “Django Unchained.” The ballad “Mayday” is especially revealing in its melodic and emotional depth.
Aaron’s guitar influences are evident—hints of John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Grant Green—without succumbing to slavish mimicry. Helping to bring it all together are Stroessner’s bandmates, Kevin Lloyd on Hammond B-3, Mitchell Benson on bass and Andrew Wray on drums. With “Haymarket Station,” Aaron Stroessner has arrived.
– Tom Ineck, host of “Jazz Currents,” NET Radio
Half of the instrumentals off Aaron Stroessner Quartet’s debut album, “Haymarket Station,” originated in school recitals — half-formed ideas waiting for a band, a venue, and onstage workshop time to come to full fruition.
The guitarist, songwriter, and center of this band auditioned to attend the University of Nebraska’s graduate school, following a 15-year run in New York City. He went for a college vibe with a happening music scene that dovetailed nicely with the quality musicians he met along the way, including the three found rocking, rolling, and jamming pleasantly enough on this album: Kevin Lloyd (Hammond B3), Mitchell Benson (upright bass), and Andrew Wray (drums).
Stroessner and Lloyd drive the humming, percolating rhythms on this 10-track debut album. They ride over bluesy, easy-listening terrain in “Blue Shoe Samba,” a tune you’d swear you heard before on the radio, WWSH… cruising past Louisville, Ky. cattails, fireflies, and blue-bonnet trailer parks in the back seat of your parents’ Ford Galaxie — before Peter Frampton came alive.
“Django Unchained” blossoms, one tone-brightening petal at a time, harboring luxe thoughts in the springy strings easing metallic parentheticals beneath Stroessner’s searching, restless fingers. Lloyd recurs, resonating his own open-valved organic gospel. They strike the right chord of flight and response, in a tremulous duet of two like-minded guest stars finding their voice together for their own special debut.
For the opening “Amtrak,” everything builds and grooves on dime-sized hair-triggers of momentous melodic snippets traveling at the speed of now and then, fast enough to keep your heart going, yet chill enough to appreciate the fine musical display. Stroessner, Lloyd, Benson, and Wray really cook here; every one of them rises to the occasion, stoking that flickering fire.
Benson’s inconspicuous bass seems to move the guitar-and-B3 around in a “Big and Strong” undercurrent. You don’t necessarily hear him stomping and pounding, so much as feel him there, building these waves, gradual, frothy, and intense — aftershocks of a 9.1.
“Kief” and “Mayday” idle into an even-keeled, pleasant-enough interlude, a lull in the proceedings, before the real show-stopper. Haymarket Station’s easygoing, percolating jazz-light vibe grinds to a screeching halt when guitarist Aaron Stroessner and organist Kevin Lloyd do their thing on “There and Back” — one bumpity-bumpity hook-and-groove of a righteous ride.
“There and Back” syncopates off a short rock anthem on repeat, referencing the prog-rock of yesteryear, as bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra played with roots, vibe, and graphic filler, chasing and feeling their spaces to the crusty core, flailing, pursuing, probing until bravado dissolves into a locked-in, locked-down, deeply-grooved rhythmic stance. Stroessner lets his hair down, loosening the brackets into righteous riffs.
But the star of this show is organist Lloyd, who explodes 3/4ths in with a mesmerizing, hokey-pokey-prodding fold-over fade that keeps getting better, like a blues-prog-rock-jazz version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s epic “Free Bird” guitar solo. Watch out Joey DeFrancesco!
Supple, sinuous shapes align in Stroessner’s well-tended universe, as Lloyd glides along on his B3 all over “Blue Tooth” — another clear winner in the fan fave category. A jitterbug moon dance, quick, short assertions of engaging, acid-dropping, room-spinning mood music, “Blue Tooth” catches you in the last licks.
Reggae-ska meets Middle Eastern folk in a space-age wonderland on “Ocho Rios.” Ruminative, playful, vibe-y, slightly off-kilter, the soundtrack-esque tune is probably what you’d hear in your head while tripping out to some good (legal) weed out here in the Northwest on a random rainy Thursday night at Dick’s.
“…a quietly ambitious ten track album that gently resonates with good, honest vibes throughout.
…[Q]uite easily, already one of my favorite albums of 2020 (and I just know it will be one of yours too).”
– Exclusive Magazine
“Thank you for your wonderful music. It is music like “Haymarket Station” that will help us through this time.”
– Ken Irwin, Jubilation Jazz Chaos Studio
“I’m really enjoying your CD, and I know our listeners around the globe are enjoying it, too.”
– Dr. Brad Stone, Producer, Programmer and Host: “The Creative Source”
– Jerry Gordon, “Seranade to a Cuckoo,” WPRB, Princeton
“LOVE this album, Aaron!”
– Dr. Brad Stone, Producer, Programmer and Host, Creative Source Studios
“It’s my pleasure to play your CD…”
– Charles Husson, Hawaii Public Radio
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