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Gene Ludwig: Hands On (2003)

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Gene Ludwig: Hands On No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

This is a very likeable B3 album, and notably for people who are not enamored of tenor sax-organ dates. Gene Ludwig, a longtime Pittsburgh musician with a history of 40 years of plugging away at this genre, has pulled out all the "stops." Ludwig has recorded seven sessions including one on Muse in 1979, all with local musicians, and on independent labels. You've got to hand it to someone who has consistently produced quality sessions and still comes back with more.

Ludwig has smartly programmed this album with two originals, three standards and, on the remaining tracks, five "organ party anthems." Sam Jones' "Unit 7" ostensibly has no connection with the B3 but it was Cannonball Adderley's intro and outro theme for a long time and it fits the bill perfectly. Jerome Richardson's "Groove Merchant" (which came first, the song or the record label?) is a highly under-recorded bounce tempo from the late '60s with the Hammond filling in the horn riffs. "Baby Don't You Go Away Mad," which I remember quite distinctly as Illinois Jacquet's "Black Velvet," swings mightily, as when Sinatra had it in his repetoire.

Pianist Carl Perkins' "Groove Yard," popularized by the Montgomery Brothers, is a fine medium tempo blues. "Willow Weep for Me" is done as a boozy, crying-in-your-beer mode just as if Jimmy Smith and Hank Mobley were blowing it. Ludwig's own "Louie and Jazz" is a perfect '50s-'60s Blue Note hard bop melody line, and until I read the composer credits I was searching mentally for the tune's name and songwriter. I was only disappointed in the closer "Spiritual" which is a solo B3 recitation that you might hear as recessional music at Sunday morning services.

This combo is one that Ludwig has worked with consistently over the past few years. Ken Karsh, a good melody player on guitar, gets ample solo time and makes his point concisely. Tom Wendt, takes care of the percussion, keeps the album moving along nicely. Saxophonist Eric DeFade is the son of Ray DeFade, who played sax for Ludwig in the early '60s. He is a young follower of the organ-tenor sax stars who are no longer on the scene and provides the appropriate sermon when called upon.


Track Listing: Louie and Jazz, Unit 7, Groove Yard, Willow Weep for Me, Groove Merchant, Groovy Samba, Baby Don't You Go Away Mad, Pete Kelly's Blues, Layin' Back, Have You Met Miss Jones, Spiritual.

Personnel: Gene Ludwig,Hammond B-3 Organ; Ken Karsh,guitar; Tom Wendt,drums; Eric DeFade,sax

Record Label: Blues Leaf Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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