Soul jazz was never in short supply during the mid to late sixties, occupying slots in juke boxes next to Aretha Franklin and James Brown and filling clubs such as Count Basie’s lounge in Harlem. On many a night these small and noisy joints were excellent places to catch master organists such as Richard “Groove” Holmes burn through a set of meaty jam sessions.
On Basie’s Bandstand features seven unreleased tunes from a 1966 live set and is about as basic a set of soul jazz as you can get. Too many practitioners at the time often tried to tinker with a reliable formula by including current pop tunes or more exotic material into the repertoire, neglecting the nuts and bolts formula that made soul jazz so appealing in the first place. Although Holmes enjoyed the occasional ballad in the studio, here in the live setting he sticks to predictable burners like “Night Train” and “Moanin’”, both of which would be familiar to the nightclub audience. There are no ballads or bossas, just straight forward blues, many of which are taken at a fire breathing pace. In fact, the trio seems to be barely hanging on throughout a breakneck “Rifftide”, the audience egging on what amounts to an endurance test for those on the stage. However, Holmes works his best magic at more subdued tempos, allowing him to really dig into the groove with some bluesy vamps and swirls of noise. Although the organist is clearly the main attraction, the little-known sidemen fill out their roles with all the spirit of an understudy given a shot at the lead. Edwards deft guitar work has the brittle sound of early rock’n’roll and he seems hellbent on including every note on the fretboard in every solo.
George Randall, in his recording debut, seems content to beat out the tempo and leave the flash to the other two. After it’s all said and done, Holmes and his two sidekicks deliver a Cliff’s Notes version of the history of soul jazz in one very satisfying club set, expertly captured by Rudy Van Gelder. Although Prestige has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of this type of stuff already, the unreleased material featured on this release stands up with the best of what’s already available.
Personnel: Richard "Groove" Holmes - organ; Gene Edwards - guitar; George Randall - drums.