Jammin' On The Hammond: An Organ Summit
New York City
November 29, 2001
Four undeniable masters of the B-3 organ took the stage at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, intertwining generation and genre, tickling on a few classics and joining together for a finger-snappin’, toe-tappin’, hand-clappin’ good time. Original masters of groove Jimmy McGriff and Dr. Lonnie Smith, femme fatale Rhoda Scott and the dynamite Joey DeFrancesco traveled fifty years into the past and back again, providing a musical education with the help of some close friends.
Hosted by Brian Delk, DJ for WBTO All Jazz in Newark, this special event not only featured the work of four great organists, two amazing guitar players, two serious saxophonists and THE funky drummer, it also brought new up-and-coming cats into the spotlight while setting a place for a couple legends to play together on stage for the first time.
Newark’s own, The Barefoot Contessa Rhoda Scott, kicked things off with her sultry blues style personifying the origins of the B-3. Backed by THE funky drummer Idris Muhammad, the rhythm maker for the entire evening, legendary tenor man Houston Person and guitarist Randy Johnston, Rhoda slid through a two song set of dirty blues numbers. The first tune, “Nova,” a Rhoda Scott original, set the tone of the evening perfectly with its classic B-3 feel while she and Houston traded a few licks hitting the head with perfection. “Sweet Sucker” by Johnny Griffin took the tempo down a little further, Rhoda’s selections were heart wrenching as the young lad Randy Johnston really shined as a soloist, giving Houston Person something to smile about. A sweet introduction gave us the low down on what this Parisian Queen is capable of, and now it was time for a little grits & gravy.
Philadelphia has come to be known as the cradle of the B-3 and now we know why. The dynamic trio of Joey DeFrancesco, legendary guitarist and fellow Philadelphian Pat Martino and once again the breakbeat king Idris Muhammad, took things a bit further into time and space as the night really began to open up. Wasting not a moment, the trio took off into a sensational hard bop number as Martino’s opening solo was cooking as always. This group's approach to the music was much more forceful and aggressive as the drumming of Idris took on a heavier shape. DeFrancesco’s soloing peaked at a near deafening zenith, pouring straight from the soul. Taking a moment for reflection, DeFrancesco gave mention of the honor it was for him to be able to play with the people he learned from and how fortunate we all were to join him in this experience. For their second number entitled “These Are Soulful Days,” a tune Martino originally recorded with Don Patterson thirty years ago, the trio brought out the other hot prospect of the evening, tenor saxophonist and multi-reed player James Carter. Similar to the Rhoda Scott quartet, the band brought things down a bit into a more blues-focused frame of mind. Once again, Martino was his classic self, teasing a bit of one his favorites and best recordings “Oleo” (See Pat Martino – Desperado issued on Prestige). The pinstriped James Carter blew a ton on this number, really making the statement that we would be hearing a lot about this cat for years to come. Anchoring the movement, DeFrancesco continued to tear it up as he called on Idris to hit it on the climax along with him in one of the tighter pieces of the entire show. We had traveled from the delta to the moon and we were only halfway.