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Wild Bill Davis: The Everest Years (2005)

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Wild Bill Davis: The Everest Years How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

This CD is an extraordinary sampling of the antics of Wild Bill Davis on the Hammond B-3 organ, as collected from five albums on the Everest label. With all of the renewed interest in jazz organ lately—Tori Amos listening to vintage Jimmy Smith sessions, etc.—this is a timely reissue. With due respect to Jimmy Smith, Davis might be the more tasteful and entertaining organist of the two. He seems less prone to the cliches that have sometimes littered Smith's looser recording sessions.

These 25 selections, many with Grady Tate on drums, George Clark on tenor sax, and a variety of accomplished guitarists, very much have the boisterous and happy spirits you'd associate with Louis Jordan's "jump blues" bands and Fats Waller (whose organ recordings are often forgotten). The sheer devil-may-care abandon of "Flying Home" and Dis Heah" are wonderful showcases of how Davis played the organ with symphonic richness and a fair amount of invention within the convention of R&B flavored, mainstream '50s jazz. And while the up-tempo numbers find him as rowdy as one would expect, I was pleased and surprised by the moody recasting of Monk's "'Round Midnight" and a ravishing Afro-Cuban original, "Cubato," that made me wish Davis and Santana had recorded a jam together.

Some of the material taken from the Broadway musical Milk and Honey is pretty slight, and even the funk Davis tries to inject into it goes nowhere. It would take perhaps a Don Byron to turn this smaltz into quasi-klezmer in order to salvage it. But apart from these few numbers, this is a winning collection for jazz organ fans, or for those who like jazz to party by.

Track Listing: The Madison Time (Part II); Blue Skies; Soft Winds; Organ Grinder's Swing; Flying Home; Independence Hora; I Will Follow You; That Was Yesterday; Milk & Honey; Let's Not Waste A Moment; Dis Heah; Angel Eyes; What's New; Like Young; Wenkie; 'Round Midnight; Blues for Joe; Cubato; and more.

Personnel: Wild Bill Davis: organ; George Clark, Maurice Simon: tenor sax; Grady Tate, Jo Jones: drums; Calvin Newborn, Bill Jennings, Les Spann: guitar; Milt Hilton: bass.

Record Label: Empire Musicwerks

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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