The latest album from iconoclastic organist Jeff Palmer, Permutation, finds the inventive keyboardist in his customary place, -- sitting behind the Hammond B-3 instrument that he has been pushing to astonishing musical heights for more than four decades, but here recording for the first time music that might be considered extraordinary even for this innovator. Long recognized by his peers for his groundbreaking approach to making music on an instrument that has known few developments since coming to the forefront of the popular soul jazz movement pioneered by the great Jimmy Smith, Palmer expanded the harmonic vocabulary of the B3 keyboard and it's bass pedals, on a series of albums of original compositions featuring likeminded players such as guitarists, John Abercrombie and John Scofield, saxophonists Arthur Blythe, Vincent Herring, Dave Liebman and Billy Pierce, and drummers Rashied Ali, Victor Lewis and Adam Nussbaum. Maintaining the swinging Smith influenced blues based sound rooted in his early experiences of playing with George Benson and Grant Green, Palmer's approach to the Hammond organ - incorporating the Coltrane influenced modal modernizations of Larry Young and the sonic adventurousness unleashed by Miles Davis on Bitches Brew - remains one of the few future oriented ones on the instrument today. As it's title suggests, Permutation finds Palmer playing a transformative music that is both fresh and exciting. Joined by two sympathetic colleagues from his upstate New York working unit - alto saxophonist Devin Garramone and drummer John Fisher - the organist presents a new sound that combines the harmonic sophistication of jazz with the soulful feeling of funk and the unrelenting energy of rock, while remaining true to his perpetual desire to create music that remains true to it's blues roots, but always rises above the commonplace. The eleven original compositions comprising Permutation once again reveal Palmer's melodic gift, while placing his lyrical lines in a fresh context that is sure to attract new listeners - particularly younger ones with an ear poised to rock and funk. The opening "Dragon" begins on a funky rhythmic note that echoes the southern soul sound R&B of groups like Booker T and MG's, but quickly moves into a jazz rooted melody reminiscent of the Eddie Harris classic "Freedom Jazz Dance." Garramone's scorching strident alto - at times recalling the tone of longtime Palmer foil Arthur Blythe - wildly fires things up here, with Palmer's organ solo offering a cool respite as Fisher's inexorable drumming keeps things cooking throughout. "Airplay" follows with a similarly serpentine melodic line laid down by Garramone's Maceo Parker influenced alto over Palmer's bluesy B-3 background and Fisher's busy funky drumming, leading into the organist's own showcase, during which he demonstrates his well known mastery of the instrument, moving from earthy soulfulness to atmospheric etherealism and back. The powerful track "Penetration" is a no holds barred jazz tour de force with an intriguing minor key melody that once again finds Garramone's acerbic alto recalling the avant funk sound of Blythe, while Palmer's organ reveals his prominent position in the extension of the Jimmy Smith - Larry Young lineage in his both bluesy accompaniment and Trane-like soloing. Palmer's "Destiny" is an appealingly soulful ballad on which the organist clearly reveals the sanctified church pedigree of his instrument. Garramone is more restrained here in his reading of the tender melody and Fisher's straightforward drumming echoes the measured handclapping of a church congregation on this succinct love poem. "Dialog," which opens with the amplified whirring sound of the B3's Leslie speaker, returns the trio to it's forward-looking funky jazz-rock role with it's winding melodic line and complex rhythmic patterns. Palmer's solo is explicit in it's "ancient to the future" outlook, blending rudiments of the long-established jazz organ vocabulary with more modernistic elements grown out of Joe Zawinul's "In A Silent Way" lexicon. The funkified feel of "Pancakes" is an unabashed reference by Palmer to the "grits and gravy" genre of soul jazz organ trios of the sixties, a time when the unwieldy keyboard found it's home in the front rooms of neighborhood bar and grills with up kitchens serving a clientele that liked it's music cooking with the same "greasy" flavor as it ribs. "The Snake" is another intriguing Palmer melody that pairs contrasting melodic/rhythmic elements - an intricate staccato uptempo opening call with a measured dissonant response. Fisher's cowbell counts out the funky time on this one as Palmer and Garramone dance around each other with fiery abandon. Palmer's unaccompanied organ takes on a mournful tone for his "Relentless," a somber solo outing that nevertheless offers a brief melodic glimpse of optimism, revealing the inexorable spirit of it's composer. "Champagne" is an effervescent excursion by the trio with a festive mood that reflects the joyous side of the blues and it's ability to aid in the putting aside of everyday cares and woes in order to celebrate with the "wine, women and song" often referenced in the music's lyrics. Palmer's "Punchie" opens somewhat lazily with a loping legato line that quickly jumps up into a dancing rhythm that's sure to keep bodies shaking and feet stomping. Palmer and Garramone embrace in some tight harmonies, while Fisher pushes the beat to higher and higher levels of intensity and then back into a relaxed groove that never loses it's funky spirit as organ and alto let loose with some exciting exchanges. The closing "Molecule" appropriately finds the band back in it's cohesive groove - three distinctive elements bonded together into a solid unit that is unremitting in achieving it's goal to swing and be funky. Jeff Palmer's illustrious career has found him on the forefront of advancing the role of the Hammond B3 organ in jazz for five decades. On Permutation he continues his search for a new sound, succeeding in uniting the different elements that have long made his instrument popular with diverse audiences - lovers of jazz, rock and soul - all of whom will find something to dance about on this exciting excursion. Russ Musto New Organ-ic Voices While some contemporary musicians keep the unwieldy Hammond B-3 relevant, the repertoire often sounds like the heyday of Jimmy Smith, along with the same old adjectives: 'soulful', 'greasy', 'bluesy', 'churchy', 'funky'. yet the organ combo remains as durable as the stately big band, and new voices are present and always welcome. Organ player Jeff Palmer is the rare downtown (or experiemental) player on a largely uptown scene. Permutation (Rank R604; 44:02 [4 stars]), his 17th under-the-radar release, bridges this gap. Backed by Palmer's working band, the album features blues riffs galore; most of the tracks fall between roughly two to four minutes. Alto saxophonist Devin Garramone's freeform flights often climax in the altissimo register. Drummer John Fisher creates a dense pocket, lots of bashing and splashy cymbals. The set's off-kilter sensibilities make up for it's lack of variety. The tracks include unusual sounds such as an alarm clock, children's voices, or just weird organ effects. The highlights include a live recording of 'Penetration' and the exuberant 'Pancakes'. But there isn't a weak track. -Eric Fine, DownBeat magazine Organ trio led by a vet that likes to keep things on the sonically adventurous side. With a heavy dose of freak out music running through it, the crew does a scaled down 'Bitches Brew' vibe that [let's] the funk fly in old [school], street style. Certainly left leaning jazz, [it's] angularity is sure to chase away the squares. -Chris Spector, Midwest Record.