A groove-drenched various artistas reissue from Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz. Richard "Groove" Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Ponder (with Big John Patton handling the organ), Charles Earland, Willis Jackson (with Mickey Tucker on organ on one track and Earland on another), and Houston Person (with Jon Logan on organ). Person plays his silky and sinewy tenor on two other tracks: "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" with Holmes, and "Walking the Dog" with McDuff. He also produces McDuff's track and Earland's "Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile)."
Other recurring figures include Eric Alexander on tenor on Earland's "Ready 'n Able" and "Europa" ; Idris Muhammad drums ever crisply and imaginatively behind Holmes on "Shippin' Out" and Jackson on "Bar Wars." The estimable trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater shows up on McDuff's "Walking the Dog" along with Person and Ron Bridgewater on tenors. Pat Martino is clean and effective on "Bar Wars."
But the real stars here, of course, are the organists, and there isn't one dud in the bunch. Holmes is overwhelming on "Shippin' Out" and a bit more understated but no less wallop-packing on "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me." McDuff is a bit restrained on "Walking the Dog," which has very much a walking pace; Houston Person threatens to walk away with the show. John Hart is also right in the groove on guitar.
"Main Streets-No Bridges" gets right on down courtesy of Ponder and drummer Greg Bandy. Ponder himself sounds relaxed and ready; Patton eases in, bubbling under for awhile and gradually building to Bill Saxton's booting tenor. "Ready 'n Able," a Jimmy Smith track from Earland and the most recent of these selections (1995), sounds much more like bop than most of the rest. Alexander's solo could have been lifted off a hundred records from the Fifties, as could the track in its entirety. That is not a bad thing. These men are making music that is pleasurable to listen to and do not have (so far as I know) pretensions to high art. "Ready 'n Able" is simply solid jazz.
Oh baby, Gator loves ya, as he shows ya on "Don't Misunderstand." Jackson's slightly rough tone is perfect for this kind of ballad, rescuing it from sentimentality. A highlight of this collection. "Europa" is by Carlos Santana and Earland does not downplay its Latin feel; Alexander is marvelous on tenor and soprano. Finally we have Houston Person again with "Heavy Juice," a bright closer. Jon Logan on organ keeps up with the Man on tenor, but no quarter is given or expected. A fine ending to a solid compilation that will serve organ jazz "newbies" well.