Houston's versatile funk jazz band Drop Trio perfectly synthesizes this fresh approach, using the instrument as its prime musical source on Big Dipper's 12 instrumentals. Members Ian Varley (Hammond organ, Rhodes piano), drummer Mike Blattel and bassist Nino Batista somehow mix and merge a cacophony of notes into an utterly pleasing soundtrack. From the rhythmic work on "Second First" and "Lefty's Alone" to the funkier "Invisible Pants" and "Flux," there's space both for soloing and playing together. As a nod to the instrument's '70s heyday, there's "Wallawalla" (which could easily make the soundtrack for a Fat Albert cartoon) and "Gin & Nothin'." All three players are crack instrumentalists and elicit top-notch groovin' material, and Varley is as adept on the Rhodes as he is with the Hammond.
Batista's bass does get hidden a bit on most tracks, and Varley and Blattel seem to be on an entirely different musical plane. Whether the muted bass was by design or accident, they should increase the low-end fatback for their next release. Nevertheless, Big Dipper makes for a great instrumental record, one with a fresh approach to a classic sound. Here's a "jazz" record with solid crossover appeal, even to those who don't know Thelonious Monk from Thelonious Monster.