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Brother Jack McDuff: Bringin' It Home

Ed Kopp By

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Over the course of a nearly 40-year career, Jack McDuff's recorded output has been consistently good if unspectacular, and this latest release is no exception. On Bringin' It Home, the 72-year-old Hammond B-3 organist reunites with some of the ex-sidemen he helped to make famous: George Benson (guitar), Red Holloway (tenor sax), and Mark Whitfield (guitar).

Granted, McDuff doesn't play with the same vitality as he did on his Atlantic and Prestige recordings of the '60s. McDuff has always been a restrained jazz organist, and his solos here are less frequent and more concise than ever. In fact, he doesn't solo at all on one track ("Summertime"). Still, Brother Jack retains an impeccable feel for the blues, a soulful sense of the groove, and a generous spirit. On Bringin' It Home he mostly comps and grooves while his guests share in the spotlight, and that's fine given his guests' capabilities.

The track "Cold Duck Time" features an easy groove and impressive solos from Benson and Holloway. The latter's soulful presence helps to energize five of these nine tracks, while Benson adds his guitar to three. McDuff's "The Scratch" is a fervid mid-tempo number on which the ensemble swings as one and Benson steps forward for a finger-flying solo. This tune's funky coolness brings to mind those fine albums McDuff and Benson recorded together in the mid '60s.

Mark Whitfield's Wes Montgomery-like solo on "Girl Talk" is the best guitar interlude on the CD. "After Hours" features Brother Jack on the piano, and his playing is spare but intensely bluesy. I love his interpretation of this well-known tune. "This Masquerade" and "Summertime" strike me as the weakest tracks, maybe because I've heard these tunes on about a thousand jazz records, but also because these versions seem overlong.

Three tracks also feature McDuff's current ensemble, the Heatin' System, and this group acquits itself just as well as the all-stars. "Pettin' The Cat" slinks along with a feline coolness and a triple sax section. Andrew Beals' beautiful solo on Johnny Mandel's "A Time for Love" provides a welcome change of mood.

Jazz centered around the Hammond B-3 is like your basic meal of meat and potatoes: it's not haute cuisine, but it satisfies many appetities. Brother Jack McDuff 's latest will definitely fill you up.

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