Jack McDuff: Brother Jack
The first date is the Jackson band minus Gator; Jennings gets as much space as Jack does. McDuff starts it off with a breathy reed sound, the guitar with answering chimes. His solo goes light, tiny notes with a feather touch. Jennings is great with the comp, slinking sly on the “Lupe Lu” changes. His own turn is bright, a gentler side than we normally see. Jack then returns, and sweetly it fades; preach on, Brother.
“Mr. Wonderful” is Bill, taking it simply with a little sass. Again Jack has the airy sound, bouncing high like a theremin. “Drowsy” is late-night smooch music: a velvety Jennings bends “Sleepwalk” notes with quiet grace. Bill does nothing unusual, but he does it very well; no wonder Jack said “Every time I play a note I want it to be with Bill Jennings.” Well said, but as we’ll see, McDuff could sure pick guitarists!
“Organ Grinder” gets down ‘n’ dirty; Jack stirs up a big mess of blues. Jennings is BAD – he’s strong as a bass. “Mack ‘n’ Duff” starts with “Bei Mir Bist...” and becomes the happy blues. He’s stronger here: the sound of vibes, and he rings them good. He stutters a bit, rolls the right hand, and Jennings does that percussion vamp he hit on Gator’s “Blue Strollin’”. It starts in high gear, and goes up from there; my kind of tune. “You’re Driving Me Crazy” puts the reedy sound to best advantage: the warbles are sweet, ditto the barely audible brushes. As it goes, the sound gets deeper, and goes between romantic and cool. And the sendoff, “Light Blues”, is a showcase, with Jennings’ silky despair and Jack’s hollow musing (with support from the left hand.) Light it is, but there’s a depth to keep you listening. So too the album: unassuming but with simple charm, you knew others would follow...
A year has passed, and McDuff’s own group takes to the studio. (This was planned for four horns, but the budget interfered.) Jennings is gone (he stayed with Gator) but what a replacement: an earlier album had Jimmy Forrest, and Jack hired his guitarist, Grant Green. (And two years later he’d discover George Benson.) Green proves himself in a moment: his fragile snap makes “Godiva Brown” irresistible. He’s not as fast as he’d later be, but everything else is there. Harold Vick brings a healthy growl and old-time street power, a must for this style. And the Brother is strong: forceful comps and trembling solos. He’s sweeter on “Goodnight”, an adorably soft tone as Vick gets that R&B honk. This sucker moves, and don’t worry – they’re enjoying it too much to stop!
“Sanctified Waltz” was a club staple, and you know why: a dose of soul with a kick like a mule. Duff gets tough, aided by vicious toms (the underrated Joe Dukes.) Vick has a great “Amen” at the end. “McDuff speaking” is a simple jam blues with powerful riffs (at one point, the “Blue ‘n’ Boogie” riff.) Jack means business, a furious surge like his later tune “Screamin’”. Then Grant invades: springy notes, and they leap into action. Speak, no; shout, Yes! And “I’ll Be Seeing You’ gets gorgeous, a glowing tone with green flourishes. There’s a little grit here, and a whole lot of sunshine. Grant, relaxed, has his best solo, and Vick goes bold for the perfect finish. It’s a wonderful snapshot: hear a giant grow before your very ears. And the pleasures are big, too!
Record Label: Prestige Records