If you, the gentle listener, were to ever tire of Jimmy Smith following an overdose of the master’s Blue Note catalog, I would direct you to anything by Brother Jack McDuff. A native of Champaign, IL, McDuff cut his teeth with Willis Jackson and Jimmy Forrest and helped a young George Benson get started. McDuff supported Gene Ammons, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Hank Crawford with his rock-steady time and spot-on bass-pedaling. Prelude is the re-release of McDuff’s 1964 big band outing with Benny Golson. Nothing new about that format... Jimmy Smith made several big band albums with Oliver Nelson at the helm. But as satisfying as Smith’s efforts might be, Brother Jack’s big band musings are a hundred-fold more satisfying.
Benny Golson’s arrangements sound less like TV series soundtracks and more like thoughtful big band charts. He proves equally adept at scoring McDuff’s "Kettle of Fish" or "Dig Cousin Will" as he is at Henry Mancini’s "Theme from the Pink Panther" or the traditional "English Country Gardens." McDuff slides evenly between the sheet of his small group and this big band, providing fireworks and detonating swing all around him. Red Holloway joins Golson on tenor saxophone, turning in creative solo after solo. George Benson and Pat Martino stay on hand to kick things into overdrive when needed and to cool things off when necessary.
Prelude is a satisfying big band-organ marriage. This current release contains the original nine selections presented on Prelude and expands this base by adding eleven additional songs from the same period. That alone makes this a superb combination and a must for all McDuff fans.
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