Kombo · This is The Good One

Famed poet, novelist and founding father of the Beatnik movement, Jack Kerouac, once stated, “The only truth is music.” There is no doubt that music has helped many find themselves. Pioneering Contemporary Jazz duo Kombo; Hammond B3 guru Ron Pedley and guitar whiz John Pondel can attest to this. “At 14, I heard Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon, reminisces Pedley. “It was the first time I ever heard Jazz. It opened my ears to improvisation and the simple fact that you don’t have to play what’s on the written page.” Pondel muses, “My world expanded one day when my older brother bought an FM radio! We listened to Jazz and found R&B and Rock music that we had never heard on AM radio. That day, I was convinced that I would be unhappy doing anything else with my life!”

The spark that was ignited all those years ago, still burns bright for Pedley and Pondel. Their passionate and rock-solid musicianship have been summoned by such iconic artists as Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, Air Supply, Gerald Wilson, Maynard Ferguson, Paul Anka and Al Jarreau, among numerous others. On April 14, 2023, Shanachie Entertainment will release Kombo’s first new recording as a unit in two decades. The anticipated, This Is The Good One, is a scintillating ten-track excursion of originals and one Curtis Mayfield classic, that brim with joy, virtuosic playing, gorgeous orchestrations in the mode of Bacharach/David and sumptuous jamming grooves inspired by the likes of Medeski, Martin, Wood, and Scofield. “We are so proud of our new record. This IS The Good One, we are on the right path!” exclaims Pedley.

“Kombo’s music evokes those wonderful classic organ, guitar combos of the 50’s and 60’s, while at the same time creating their own state-of-the-art contemporary sound. It’s a blast of fresh air and a blast from the past all at once. No wonder the audience has embraced them whole heartedly,” states Danny Weiss, VP of Jazz A&R at Shanachie Entertainment. The synergy and energy created between Ron Pedley and John Pondel is undeniable. “Jazz, R&B, Pop, and Classical music are the essence and DNA of who we are musically. We put it all in a hopper together and it comes out like Kombo!” declares Huntington Beach, CA organist Ron Pedley, who met Pondel at a Barry Manilow rehearsal in 1984.

“Ron and I have always maintained a close friendship whether we were recording in a band together or on hiatus,” shares Pondel. Kombo was born in 1999 when drummer (former Manilow band member) and Grammy nominated producer Bud Harmer (Keiko Matsui, Lalah Hathaway, David Benoit, Jeff Golub) came up with idea of the duo forming an organ/guitar combo for contemporary jazz. Believe it or not, Kombo was the first with this instrumentation to hit the format. Harner along with bassist Marc Levine joined Pedley and Pondel a decade earlier in the funk jazz collective Uncle Festive. “Being jazz players at heart, an organ and jazz combo felt natural,” explains Tarrytown based Pondel whose guitar muses include Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, B.B. King and Andres Segovia, among others. “We wanted to write music that felt that way too and that let our personalities shine through.”

This Is The Good One also features long-time collaborators, bassist Matt Bissonnette and drummer Gregg Bissonnette, who both played with Pedley in Maynard Ferguson’s band. The Hammond B-3 player recalls, “For me playing and recording with Maynard Ferguson was an incredible experience. He was always very supportive of us kids in his band and always encouraged us to strive to find our own voice.” The personnel on This Is The Good One also included percussionists David Rozenblatt and Luis Conte and The Fat City Horns. Although it has been over two decades since Kombo’s last two recordings, The Big Blast Blast (1999) and Cookin’ Out (2001), the dynamic duo doesn’t skip a beat on the new recording.

This Is The Good One opens with the winning title track and breezy Sophisti-Pop swinger with head-turning changes. John explains that the title comes from a plea he once heard from a very patient TV and radio producer. “He was frustrated with his voice over artist, (it was a celebrity) who could not read the copy without making lots of mistakes. About a half hour into the recording session, you can hear the producer say ok, ‘This Is The Good One.’ Almost begging the voice over artist to get it right!” “Wind It Up” is a funky and tasty ditty propelled by drummer Gregg Bissonette and the album’s first single “Right In There” hits a musical sweet spot with its memorable melody, harmonic wonder, catchy groove, and montuno feel. Ron explains, the title “Right In There,” comes from an old beatnik term. “It could mean something hip or cool like ‘Man that groove is “Right In There!” Works for me that way!’” John adds, “Like a lot of tunes, ‘Right In There,’ started as a germ of an idea and we kept building on it.” John credits his time early on in his career with Gerald Wilson’s Orchestra as pivotal. He recalls with smile, “Gerald rarely played his trumpet on gigs and roamed about the bandstand after counting off the tunes. He came up to me during one gig and whispered in my ear, ‘This is Jazz!’”

In the tradition of the great Hammond B3 players, Pedley cooks and gets down to the heart of organizing on the soul jazz number, “Pass A Good Time.” In addition to Jimmy Smith, Ron admits to being influenced by the late Joey DeFrancesco and Larry Goldings. One of the beauties of Kombo is their uncanny ability to craft intricate arrangements that disguise themselves behind beautiful melodies and danceable grooves. “It’s Daybreak,” inspired by a lyric from Barry Manilow’s song “Daybreak,” is a prime example. “Ron and I basically do the rhythm section arranging,” shares John. “Ron did a great job arranging the horns on several tunes. He also kills as a string arranger!” Ron who cites Vince Mendoza, John Beasley, and Rob Mathes, as among his compositional influences right now, recently did the rhythm, horn and string arrangements on labelmate Keiko Matsui’s new album, Euphoria, along with John Beasley and Randy Waldman. Another highlight on This Is The Good One is the Brazilian Bossa groover “Hitomi’s Rose,” penned by John in tribute to his girlfriend Hitomi. Kombo slows down the pace with Pedley’s R&B inflected “There Everywhere,” which takes its cue from Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open.” This Is The Good One also showcases “Rain Back On Top,” a feel-good romp with a Motown-esq feel and the album’s lone cover Curtis Mayfield’s hit “It’s Allright.” Kombo’s refreshing take is a delightfully swinging arrangement with a laid-back and buttery smooth horn section. This Is The Good One comes to a show-stopping finale with the jubilant “Let’s Do This.” When all is said and done, I think we can all agree, Kombo indeed has done it!

Shanachie Entertainment

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