By Andrew Gilbert
Would you like a little grease with your pizza? When the swaggering tenor saxophonist Nancy Wright is slinging the funk, of course you do.
A Cheese Board regular, Wright performs at the Gourmet Ghetto institution on Friday 11:45 am to 2:45 pm with her organ trio, blowing delectable blues, ballads and soul jazz standards. Featuring Hammond B3 veteran Wayne De La Cruz and supple drummer Kent Bryson (regularly heard with vocalist Kim Nalley), the trio provides apt accompaniment for dining on Shattuck Avenue.
An Ohio native, Wright cut her teeth on the blues scene, and she’s toured and recorded with heavyweights like B. B. King, Elvin Bishop, Joe Louis Walker, John Lee Hooker, and Johnny Adams. A California resident since the mid 1980s, she developed a taste for jazz while working with Oakland Hammond B3 great Jackie Ivory, who turned her on to the history of soulful organ/tenor sax collaborations.
Wright made her own contribution to the soul jazz tradition last year with the release of “Moanin’” (Chicken Coop Records), an impressive debut session produced by B3 expert Tony Monaco, who accompanies her with his tight working trio.
Whether navigating hard bop anthems like Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’” and Gigi Gryce’s “Minority,” interpreting standards such as “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “When Sunny Gets Blue,” or grooving on her original blues and boogaloos, Wright treats the music right.
Oh yeah, the pizza of the day is crimini mushrooms, onions, montalban cheese, mozzarella, and arugula with lemon dressing. Yum.
Andrew Gilbert lives in west Berkeley and covers music and dance for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and East Bay Express.