Live Performance Reviews
Bob DeVos serves jazz al fresco, with a twist
by Zan Stewart | The Star-Ledger

Friday July 18, 2008, 5:34 PM
In his first set Thursday at Watchung Plaza in Montclair, the engaging guitarist and composer Bob DeVos offered a spiffy arrangement of Wes Montgomery's vibrant "Twisted Blues." Play with that title a bit, and you might come up with DeVos' current aesthetic thrust within the guitar-organ-drums genre: blues with a twist.
DeVos has been steeped in the blues for years, via tenures with such master organists as Charles Earland and Jimmy McGriff. But he also seeks a modern viewpoint in his compositions, where such giants as Wayne Shorter and Claude Debussy serve as inspirations. So his blues and their variants have a distinctive, forward-looking air, which he's presented on his two Savant CDs, 2006's "Shifting Sands" and last year's "Playing for Keeps."
At Watchung Plaza DeVos dug into music from those CDs, and other selections -- all presented with panache. His top-tier colleagues comprised Hammond B-3 organist Dan Kostelnik of Newton, who plays on the Savant CDs, drummer Payton Crossley, and guest tenor saxophonist and flutist Jed Levy.
The opening "Pause for Fred's Claws," from "Playing for Keeps," exemplified DeVos' compositional stance. The theme, played over a zesty Crossley shuffle beat buoyed by Kostelnik's fat chords, had both simplicity -- in its deep blues feeling -- and complexity, where quickly alternating notes gave a shimmering quality. After two choruses, DeVos delivered a second theme in another key, adding further interest.
DeVos' solo emphasized his strengths as an improviser. He played with a round, warm sound, where all notes were heard clearly and had a sure-footed swing. His ideas ran from plain, meaty blues thoughts to fast runs with a song-like sense. Kostelnik and Crossley kept the heat turned on with their enticing accompaniment.
Tenorman Levy boasted a full tone, and like the guitarist, was tuneful in his blues tales, his lines full of alluring details, with some Coltrane-isms adding a contemporary heft. Kostelnik scored with his rich-to-bright tones, his funky packages, and his robust chordal passages.
"Shifting Sands," heard in the second set, was another challenging DeVos original that sounded simple. The slow and steamy blues had harmonic movements that kept the soloists on their toes. Still, these talented, schooled musicians played it with grace and grit.
Other appealing items on the program: "Twisted Blues," with its vital feel; Slide Hampton's emotive "Frame for the Blues," with ace Levy flute; and Jobim's "Mojave," where Crossley created a percussive fiesta with drums and cymbals.
Jazz Improv Magazine
An Organ Summit Supreme
Live in Newark
October 23, 2005
By Carla Lilien
It was a soulful Sunday afternoon in Newark’s An Organ Summit Supreme gathered in one of the vintage churches in the city on Washington Street. The gig was billed as a tribute to honor the great Hammond B-3 master Jimmy McGriff. Under the musical direction of guitar virtuoso Bob DeVos, the B-3 veterans brought to the stage what was reminiscent of the organ trios in the many clubs in Newark back in the day. With the addition of the bluesy sound of sax players Houston Person and David “Fathead” Newman, the music came alive again as it were years ago. Fans packed the house to relive the burning vibrations of the Key Club and Sparky J’s.
The first set began with the Sammy Cahn/Julie Styne composition “It’s You or No One.” This tune seems to be popular among jazz musicians; I suppose it is due to the swinging melody and constant changes. On stage were Pittsburgh’s own Gene Ludwig on B3, guitarist Vinnie Corrao, and no nonsense Don Williams on drums. Leading this outstanding quartet was the Texas tenor sound of the great Houston Person. Houston’s delivery was powerful with high energy. His horn resonated through the church like an early morning sermon.
The band proceeded with the beautiful melody “Meditation,” followed by the familiar “Time After Time.” From the first note you were guaranteed an afternoon of pure soul. The quartet harmoniously justified the core of these tunes with Groove Master Ludwig’s dynamic approach of defined chord changes. Gene possesses a vast knowledge of the music, and is a true scholar of his instrument. Corrao has a smooth and easy style that blends perfectly with the swinging rhythms of Williams’ steady drum work. Both had much experience traveling with the bands of Brother Jack McDuff and Groove Holmes. Currently, Gene (as well as Bob DeVos) record on the BluesLeaf label, produced by Jack Kreisberg.
WBGO’s Gary Walker hosted the show, and graciously brought to the stage the next group, which consisted of Philadelphia-based and Julliard-trained organ legend Trudy Pitts. Joining her was the diverse and sensitive guitar of Bob DeVos. The drums were thoroughly covered by the very capable rhythmic beat of Rudy Petschauer, also a past member of Jack McDuff’s organization. Lastly, the wonderful and ever so soulful David “Fathead” Newman was featured on tenor. Bob and Trudy worked side by side in the organ clubs of yesteryear. When Pat Martino left Trudy’s band, DeVos replaced him. The close and obviously tender relationship is exemplified in their stage presence, and throughout their musical exchange.
Trudy led the band by opening with the Oliver Nelson classic “Stolen Moments.” She put her own personal treatment on this magnificent melody. Her bass pedal work is extraordinary, and her style is magical. There was a total synchronicity between the musicians. The audience was awarded a spiritual blessing.
“Fathead” Newman still keeps on keepin’ on. His technique is constant and heartfelt. Through the years, he mastered the flute, and displays this on the Milt Jackson timepiece “Bags Groove,” where he takes a brilliant solo.
DeVos has so much to say, as his fingers glide effortlessly across the strings. He has a lush and sensual style that only he owns.
Petschauer is the perfect addition to this tight and succinct array of players. His innate sense of timing is superb. He swings hard and direct in his presentation.
The quartet concluded with Trudy’s personal and truly spiritual version of “Amazing Grace.” She sincerely made mention of devastation in New Orleans, following the hurricane. There was total silence. Let us pray…
The piece de resistance was the presence of the Master Jimmy McGriff on the bandstand. This musical afternoon was to honor the King of the Blues Organ. He played back to back with each B3 aficionado. Vinnie Corrao and Don Williams and Houston Person returned to the stage to join McGriff. Ludwig and Pitts played musical chairs, sharing the organ bench across from McGriff. Person blew hard and bold, giving definition to the existing sound. It was exhilarating to see Master Jimmy among his colleagues. He still possesses a spirit, which identifies him and keeps him close to everyone’s heart. The group took a simple eight bar blues and created a constant rhythm.
Anyone who has ever seen Dr. Lonnie Smith knows what unique personality he brings to the scene. His individuality is identifiable and his funky style is toe tapping and enveloping. I recall a night at the Village Vanguard, when the doctor disappeared from the organ bench in Lou Donaldson’s band. Moments later, he rose from beneath the organ. He has a bag of tricks, and the audience loves him.
Dr. Lonnie was joined on stage by “Fathead Newman,” Bob DeVos, and Rudy Petschauer once again, to conclude the show. The doctor has been awarded Organ Keyboardist of years 2003, 2004 and 2005. The set began with a “Fathead” Newman original entitled, “Cousin Esau.” This one chord funk was enhanced by the creative metered drum work of Petschauer. David took the opportunity to solo on this groove, followed by two brilliant solos by Bob and Lonnie.
The Ellington tune, “Just Squeeze Me,” has always been a favorite of astute blues musicians. The band decided to explore this blues in ballad mode. Bob and Lonnie did justice to the inner workings of this steady melody. The comedic medley of “Misty,” Stevie Wonder’s “Sunshine of My Life,” and a Jimmy Rushing shuffle was worth the price of admission. Innumerable antics took place throughout the trilogy which allowed the audience full participation.
DeVos took a solo on a magnificent piece written by Lonnie that brought tears to my eyes. His sensitivity and tenderness puts him in a category of his own.
The band concluded with the old standby “Willow Weep for Me,” and a funk tune of the Doctor’s. One is more familiar with the flowing subtlety of the prior, but this beautiful ballad was kicked up another notch to 3/4 time. The camaraderie between the personnel was obvious, and the music melted together like butter.
The Organ Summit Supreme was a gift for the people of Newark, as well as the loyal fans of this music. The city paid tribute to the great organist Jimmy McGriff. Newark should always be remembered for the music it produced. The city has a fine history of jazz. Many of the greats came out of the wonderful city. If you closed your eyes for just one moment, you were taken back to a time when this music poured out of the clubs, up and down Broad Street. It was a great day in Newark.
Jazz Improv’s NY Jazz Guide - December 2005
By David A. Orthmann

Bob DeVos
The Turning Point Cafe
Piermont, New York
May 12, 2008
A seventy-five minute opening set at The Turning Point Cafe featured mostly selections from DeVos' two recent Savant releases, (2006) and Playing For Keeps (2007). The trio, plus guest saxophonist John Richmond, displayed an exemplary rapport, knowing when to mix it up and when to stay out of one another's way, but not without taking some risks, as when Kostelnik inserted brash substitutions for the original chords on the bridge of DeVos' nifty soul-jazz line, “Pause For Fred's Claws.”

DeVos is a masterful jazz guitarist who prefers to beckon the listener to join him on the musical quest rather than overemphasize technique and velocity. Something ardent always stirs beneath a somewhat cool, calculated surface. From the onset of a solo on Cole Porter's “So In Love,” he produced a full- bodied tone and sounded logical, direct, and unflappable even while executing complex single note runs at a fast tempo. An intensely swinging improvisation on Victor Young's ballad “My Foolish Heart” never strained for effect, structuring meaningful and lyrical statements in a very concise manner. The subtle shifts in rhythmic emphasis that are an essential part of DeVos' work were especially evident throughout “And So It Goes.”

Not a thrill machine, Kostelnik shuns the typical Hammond organ cliches in favor of constructing solos that come off as complete statements. He often cultivates phrases by weighing and turning them over until satisfied before moving on to another set. For example, the organist began his “So In Love” solo by briefly galloping across the keyboard, making sense of some choppy phrases, then executing bounding Latin lines and extended chordal passages. He came out swinging hard on John Lewis' “Afternoon In Paris,” picking out brief melodies, quoting Bud Powell's “Parisian Thoroughfare,” and connecting some odd leaping lines.

The most extroverted member of the trio, Johns, with his slashing cymbals and decisive fills between the snare and toms, added heat and grit to the proceedings. A thematic solo on “And So It Goes” featured, in the midst of a conventional ride cymbal rhythm, cutting snare drum accents, swinging abstract figures broken up by single hits to the bass drum, and gleeful rumbling trips around the set.

Richmond joined the trio for three of the set's seven selections, his muscular tenor saxophone sound enlivening the samba take on “My Foolish Heart.” Big imposing phrases, a smattering of bebop runs, and blues licks were all integrated within the architecture of his solo. His turn during “Three/Four Miss C” swung firmly and directly, especially when he played variations of a long cutting run. The saxophonist's range of articulations and sounds throughout “Afternoon In Paris” was colorful, diverse and expressive. He gripped one note tightly and then bent it; then he executed a long wavering scream; finally, he worked through a series of phrases that became gradually longer and more pointed, seeming to land dead center on their target.
"Great jazz on this side of the river
The Bob DeVos Trio"
Star-Ledger SPOTLight  Monday, July 19, 2004
Guitarist Bob DeVos exemplifies what to look for in a mainstream jazz artist.
First, he possesses an appealing sound, based around a glowing center that spreads out to a winsome fullness, recalling such masters as Jim Hall but much more personal than derivative. Second, everything DeVos plays has an assured rhythmic bounce, a hearty swing. Third, the guitarist is a creative thinker who seeks the best notes for a given situation, and who executes them seemingly without effort. And fourth, he chooses top-rate material and presents it in a way that is both inventive and accessible.
All these aspects were evident in abundance from DeVos' first tune on Friday. The world-class guitarist who's performed with such notables as organists Charles Earland, saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Eric Alexander and bassist Ron McClure did not need a warm-up. He came out cooking.
The West Orange-based DeVos (pronounced dee-VO) was joined by his regular, powerhouse Jersey-based trio mates: Organist Dan Kostelnik (pronounced kaw-STELL-nick) of Newton and drummer Vince Ector of Paterson. This is a compact, intuitive, empathetic band that delivers.
The opening number, "Driftin'," was a moderately-paced Herbie Hancock song with a blues bent but that is not a blues per se -- contained on the leader's recent CD on the New Jersey-based Blues Leaf label, "DeVos' Groove Guitar." As DeVos improvised, playing one good idea, then another, Kostelnik set up a buoyant, translucent pad with deftly-placed chords; Ector added crisp drum work. Then, when Kostelnik soloed, offering blues riffs, lines that ran to high, almost crying tones, and a lot more, DeVos played complementary, rhythmically charged chords, pushing his colleague and fleshing out the sound.
"Angel Eyes," usually a slow ballad, was a percolating Latin number in DeVos' hands, with Ector adding pleasing percussive chatter. Kostelnik's appealing ideas led to DeVos, who scored with several statements composed of few notes but with high rhythmic impact, and with extended lines that unfurled leisurely. At points, he moved from linear ideas to chunky, gleaming chords -- a winning contrast. All in all, a pleasure to listen to.
The set also included the heartfelt ballad, "But Beautiful," the fast-paced "I've Never Been in Love Before," a "burner groove" look at "Walk on By," and the leader's shuffle blues, "Breaking the Ice," from his same-titled CD (Savant). Here, Ector soloed, working from light hits to roaring press rolls...
Dueling guitarists, united in jazz
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

Digging into their distinctive, prodigious styles, which are deeply rooted in the bebop-and-beyond idiom, guitarists Bob DeVos and Dave Stryker gave a persuasive duet performance Thursday at the Glen Rock Inn in Glen Rock.

The veteran West Orange guitarists, both longtime leaders, rarely play as a duo, which made their appearance as part of the Glen Rock Inn's six-year, ongoing jazz series special.

The first set revealed not only the guitarists' ability to play all manner of statements engagingly -- these ranged from alluring readings of a song's theme to long, intricate lines -- but also their profound rhythmic capacity. It was as if each had a drummer in his head, so strong was their sense of swing despite having no accompaniment except each other.

Their individual sounds were full and alluring, yet were also different. DeVos, who plays a custom-built Rob Engel guitar, gets a round, rich tone -- his notes decidedly fat in a pleasing, buoyant way -- while Stryker, employing a Gibson ES-347 (both instruments were open-holed), got a bit more grit and edge while remaining hefty and sonorous.

The pair's opening "Corcovado" was a characteristically creative rendition. Stryker began, freely stating the theme, as DeVos filled with chords and single notes. At one point, Stryker made his tone twangier, inviting a bluesy feeling into a bossa.

DeVos took the first solo and scored with luxuriant flowing lines, comely chordal melody, and little snippets, as Stryker played chunky chords in rhythmic support. In his solo, the latter dropped in tumbling descents, evocative bluesy thoughts and songlike garlands of notes.

In their solos on "Come Rain or Come Shine," the guitarists brought out their blues acumen. The number climaxed with conversational phrase trades, as each seemed to find just the right answer to what the other had just played. Then they soloed simultaneously, orchestrating a beguiling tapestry of choice notes and glowing sounds.

Stryker handled the theme to "Watch What Happens," as DeVos played punchy chords in accompaniment. Stryker's solo again had a wealth of blues matter, as did the one played by DeVos, who added sumptuous chordal melody.

The closing "Anthropology" was a brisk dash through a bebop classic, with the pair playing the theme in unison, as well as brief harmonized sections. Here, the musicians revealed their capacity to play fast and clean and make each note count.