A Letter to St. Paul (Independent)
The Java Men

By John Goodin

This disc is full of good news: Local trio of young jazz guys makes a second fine recording! First-rate compositions, tight ensemble playing and adventurous soloing abound! Todd Hildreth (organ), Ray Rizzo (drums) and Craig Wagner (guitar) have improved on their strong first recording and here offer us a snapshot of an even tighter, more confident band — a band, by the way, that you can see with some regularity in Louisville.

Especially enjoyable is the variety of original tunes: uptempo, ballad, Latin, circus, folky, funky. Never just a rehash of old bebop changes.

Hildreth's two tunes are closest to the funky organ trio tradition, but both "Chaz Haz Imploded" and "Jimmy the Spock" are twisted in interesting ways. Wagner's six originals cover a lot of territory, and each one is fresh. The acoustic, then electric remake of "Joy" is a beautiful guitar workout, and the title cut leads the band into a 13minute whirlwind that could be mistaken for an outtake from an old Tony Williams Lifetime (the early ones with Larry Young and John McLaughlin) record.

A Letter to St. Paul is very likely the finest recording issued by anyone on the Louisville scene in 1995. It is certainly the finest recording to feature a Drunken Mariachi Viking Chorus. No reader of Louisville Music News should be without it.