The Alex Nauman Organ Trio + 3 - Too Damn Tight!

The Alex Nauman Organ Trio + 3 - Too Damn Tight!

Recently Retro Reviews: The Alex Nauman Organ Trio + 3 - Too Damn Tight!  

Record Label & Catalog Number: Allied Records 0002

Release Year: 2012

This one’s a bit of a wild card, and it has me re-thinking the scope of the Recently Retro Reviews project to include records found in the wild (thrift shops, yard sales, swap meets, etc). I pulled this record out of the closest Goodwill to where I live, and bought it based on the cover alone. Goodwill’s all over inflation-adjustment pricing means $3.99 a record, so being selective is imperative. For whatever impulse reasoning I rationalized to myself at the time, I said screw the research and I paid the 4 bucks and Too Damn Tight! came home with me.

I’ve been buying records at thrift stores for as long as I can remember, and coming across something that’s newer than the Jane Fonda Workout Album isn’t a common occurrence. Finding funk and jazz records from any year intermingled with the hundreds of white gospel frisbees isn’t common either. I figured I was making a safe bet based on what I saw on the cover and on the insert. Oh, how I love pleasant surprises, and The Alex Nauman Trio + 3: Too Damn Tight! gave me a tiring grin for the entirety of my first listen.

“Papa Shark” is track one on side one, and instantly Nauman and company find the Lou Donaldson / Lonnie Smith 1967 palette of tones on this straightforward boogaloo cut. The overall production value is modern, clarity-wise, but rich, warm, and full like it was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder himself. Track two, “Brown Food”, is where things get interesting. I’ve had a few jazz records pass through my hands over the years, and what I’ve learned along the way is how to feel the music… how to ride a wave created by players who feel it too. These are real players, and I feel the reverence they share of the masters that formed them into them. It’s almost as if a newly-discovered unreleased cut of Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, and Stanley Turrentine in the studio has been found in the Blue Note vaults. It sounds cliche to say, but that’s the best way I know how to say it at the moment. “Gospel #1” is another surprise, replacing the B3 with a beautifully subdued piano. There's a lot of breathing room between instruments here, reinforcing the notion of less is more.

The second side is where the ‘wave’ metaphor really applies, as the solos these men deliver are riding the crest… teetering on the edge of wipeout it would seem at times, but never letting go of it until they reach the shore safely. Now add a couple of backflips of instrumental prowess while on top of said wave. That’s what tracks one through three on side two felt like…a bunch of bad-asses soloing their funky way through an audio-gymnastic jazz-combo version of a Soul Train line. Musically speaking, the biggest surprise was “Last Call at the Bow”... one of the most beautiful piano pieces I’ve heard in recent years. It gave me goosebumps the same way Ellington / Coltrane “In a Sentimental Mood” or Bill Evans “Peace Piece” did when I first heard them. The combination of exquisite composition and poignant performances on piano, bass, and guitar here is breathtakingly stunning and tear-worthy. I hate to spoil the surprise for you, but since I've already done it, the song is posted below.


Grab some tissue. 


I’m at a loss for word, singular… a loss for a better word or phrase to replace the word surprise in this essay. I see I’ve used it a lot here. But, surprise is what I got plenty of. What is no surprise is that Alex Nauman is a jazz guitar teacher. I feel it safe to assume some of the other players on the record are teachers, too… or maybe just the best students. In the end, the real surprise (besides learning that Nauman is a prolific jazz guitarist in Billings, Montana of all places) is finding a modern-era private-press jazz record that’s as stellar as Too Damn Tight! in the Goodwill record bin. It’ll probably never happen again, but it’s all good. It happened once, and it was so ‘all good’ I had to tell you about it as soon as I possibly could. 

It’s still available on vinyl. Go buy it here. Right now:




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