Jazz Organ Then & Now: Honeydripper & The Messenger

Tom Greenland By

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Jack McDuff
The Honeydripper

Nick Moran Trio
The Messenger

Hammond B3 organ-driven combos have been a staple of hard bop and soul jazz since Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk (featuring guitarist Billy Butler's catchy riffing) hit the charts 50 years ago. The sound of the B3 has lost none of its appeal for lovers of bluesy swing, as evidenced by two releases, a classic reissue and a current offering.

The Honeydripper, recorded in 1961 at Rudy van Gelder's legendary studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, is an early-but-goodie from Jack McDuff's catalogue that, along with 1960's Tuff 'Duff, helped launch his long and productive career.

This CD has been remastered by van Gelder himself, with excellent results. The session includes the stellar lineup of McDuff on organ, Jimmy Forrest on tenor, Grant Green on guitar and Ben Dixon on drums, all swinging hard enough to break the vine, an amazing fact considering that McDuff is taking care of walking bass chores with the Hammond foot pedals while simultaneously comping and soloing. Forrest's tenor tone is grits-and-gravy gruff with a laid-back-in-the-pocket feel. Meanwhile, it's Green's recording debut, but he sure doesn't sound like a new kid on the block: his signature husky-sweet sound is already manifest.

This is mostly blues fare, plus a cover of "Mr. Lucky . The '50s beat on "I Want a Little Girl sounds slightly dated, but the group nails the oh-so-slow tempo. McDuff's individuality and genius lie in his subtle and seemingly offhand phrase endings and in his stuttering, coughing, staccato articulations—no tone left unturned.

Flash forward 45 years: guitarist Nick Moran's trio release, The Messenger, featuring Ed Withrington on organ and Andy Watson on drums, nods to the classic organ combo tradition on numbers like the title cut and "Indigo City , but also includes a pastiche of bossa, New Orleans Meters-style funk, Latin jazz and even a slow funk-fusion number with distorted guitar. Moran's phrasing tends to short bop-bytes, daisy-chained in an assortment of slides and pull-offs. Withrington, like McDuff, is adept on the pedals and employs a range of timbres and tone colors; on "The Black Rose he pulls out half the stops to keep things on steady simmer. While this CD has less of an identifiable 'sound', the overall dynamic curve is, though temporate, consistently propulsive.

Tracks & Personnel

The Honeydripper

Tracks: Wham; I Want a Little Girl; The Honeydripper; Dink's Blues; Mr. Lucky; Blues & Tonic.

Personnel: Jack McDuff: Hammond B-3 organ; Jimmy Forrest: tenor saxophone; Grant Green: guitar; Ben Dixon: drums.

The Messenger

Tracks: Papa George; The Messenger; Indigo City; Sensory Awakening; The Secret Life; That Greasy Stuff; The Black Rose; Perfect Moment; Shorter Steps.

Personnel: Nick Moran: guitar; Ed Withrington: organ; Andy Watson: drums.


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