Until the 1950's, the organ was seldom heard as a serious jazz instrument. That changed quickly when Jimmy Smith started recording album which soared to the top of the jazz and R & B charts. Several other organists emerged such as Groove Holmes, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Shirley Scott, all of whom acknowledged their admiration of Smith.
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Another organist that emerged in the 60's was not as famous but nevertheless a great player. His name is Reuben Wilson. Born in 1935 in the "big" city of Mounds, Oklahoma, Reuben didn't start played professionally until 1962 at the age of 27. He recorded several fine albums for Blue Note including "Blue Mode" in 1969 which the "All Music Guide to Jazz" says, "embraces soul-jazz and Memphis funk in no uncertain terms." Wilson retired from performed in the early 80's but he decided to go public again in the mid-90's.
Wilson is teamed with long-time soul/jazz drummer Bernard Purdie and Grant Green, Jr., who is the son of one of the greatest guitar players in jazz history. Grant Jr. also is a fine guitarist and sings with a strong resemblance to Joe Williams.
The liner notes by Bob Porter of WBGO radio station point out that the soul-jazz organ groups of '50's through the '70's are long gone but that the musical genre has been difficult to ignore. He states, "Wilson, Purdie & Green represent the music as it should be played."
The only other musician on the CD is special guest Jerry Jemmott on a bass. Jemmott is another veteran of the R & B music scene.
Almost all of the songs on the album are composed by one of the group. The music is full of soul, jazz and blues and here's my take on it:
1. THE OKIEDOKE-Wilson 5:18
From the opening notes here, I'm in "groove heaven." All three cats play what the liner notes call "an easy shuffle" which translates into pure funky soul. As Wilson explores the keyboard of his Hammond B3 organ, Purdie provides a hard, steady beat and Green's repetitious playing pushes the soulful sound. Wilson lays back for several bars and Green plays a fine solo. Wilson comes back in and just squeezes the funk out of the music. Great opening.
2. FLIPITY FLOP-Wilson 6:50
The second cut is much more uptempo with the organ and guitar playing in the upper registers for most of the song.
I can hear echoes of early R & B which led right into the early Rock music. Once more, the music is a tremendous group effort with Purdie pounding the drums and the other two players groovin' in harmony, taking turns in the lead. This would be a great song to dance to (frankly that can be said for every song on this CD.)
3. SWEET HOME CHICAGO-Robert Johnson 7:24
This classic by the renowned Blues guitarist Johnson is pure, down-home funky blues. Green takes the opening solo ala Johnson's moanin' guitar while Wilson comps tastefully behind him and Purdie plays the drums in 4/4 time. Slow, steady and mournful, Wilson steps to the forefront and makes his Hammond sing with sweet, sweet passion. I can just see Robert Johnson smiling at this performance.
4. MY FATHER'S SONG-Green, Jr. 8:23
This title is similar to the great hard bop pianist Horace Silver's "Song for My Father". It's appropriate that Grant, Jr. wrote this for his fabulous father and that he opens the song in the same style as his Dad played. The song is just flatout gorgeous with truly soulful harmonies. Wilson shows his skill in playing behind Green for several bars. Green not only sounds like his father here but there are also hints of Wes Montgomery and George Benson. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to a parent. When Wilson does step forward, he again plays with an amazingly gentle power that just grabs the heart.
5. LONG LIVE NEW ORLEANS-Purdie/Green, Jr. 6:50
As the liner notes point out, this song features "the Crescent City street beat" which means that Purdie is playing in a unusual style for him. But he and his mates pull it off with flying colors. The heart of the New Orleans sound soulfully sends us to that great city.
6. EVERY DAY I HAVE THE BLUES-Peter Chapman 4:54
This is a classic from the Count Basie/Joe Williams songbook. Bassist Jemmott joins in but this is a vehicle for Grant Green who sings with the timbre and power that Joe Williams had. His voice is a deep bass with a full compliment of pure blues.
"Nobody loves me, nobody seems to care
I said nobody loves me, and nobody seems to care
Hard luck and trouble, Lord you know I got my share."
As Green bluesily sings the lyrics, Wilson is providing an equally blues-based accompaniment. This is the ultimate in funky, soulful blues.
7. SUMMER SUN-Green, Jr. 8:04
The tempo slows way down here and Grant starts his own song with a achingly beautiful guitar solo. This is the most beautiful song on the album and is another great dance number. Slow, sensual, full of warm passion from the start. Wilson glides in with the same sexy, soulful sound. This is the perfect song for lovers to lose themselves on the dancefloor or in front of a warm fire.
8. PEOPLE GET READY-Curtis Mayfield 6:13
The group proves that they can cover a great song just as well as their own music. No vocals here but just straight-ahead groovy playing by all of the group. Green has a little fun with his solo by quoting from several sources but always comes back in with Mayfield's melody.
9. JUST MY IMAGINATION-Whitfield/Stonge 8:38
Another cover, this one also features Green's singing and both he and the group perform this classic beautifully with a slow, melancholy reverence to the original. Before he sings, Green plays an absolutely gorgeous guitar solo that brings to mind B.B. King. Funky blues, baby, funky. When Green does sing, he again morphs into a totally different singer. Here, he doesn't really sound like anyone else but his voice has a mellow quality that is perfect for the song.
There cats deserve to be called the "Godfathers of Groove". They play a brand of soul/jazz that hasn't been heard much in the last few decades. I hope they release more albums.
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