Between 1966 and 1978, producer Sonny Lester recorded around 30 of organist Jimmy McGriff’s albums for the Solid State, Groove Merchant and LRC labels. During this productive period, McGriff recorded blues and ballads with small groups, swing jazz with all-star big bands, organ battles with Groove Holmes and funky disco outings with various electronic keyboards. Lester has kept this music available on CD through his LRC label – known for its below-budget prices, cheesy cover art and hodge-podge selections. For whatever reason, musician credits are almost always missing, scant or inaccurate – and recording dates are hopelessly left out too.
Let’s Stay Together, on the other hand, is a facsimile of one of Jimmy's old Groove Merchant LPs in all it’s a 32 ½-minute glory. Reissued by a company I’ve never heard of called Beast Retro, this lost McGriff episode combines four tracks recorded by a 1972 septet ("Let’s Stay Together," "Tiki", "Theme From Shaft" and "What’s Going On") with three tracks from a 1966 trio featuring guitarist Thornell Schwartz ("Old Grand Dad," "Georgia On My Mind" and "April In Paris"). The original cover art is all there, along with writer and musician credits. Even the sound reproduction puts LRC to shame.
The music, unfortunately, isn’t terribly memorable. But the R&B covers benefit by McGriff’s outstanding blues touch and the funky "Tiki" and the glorious blues of "Old Grand Dad" (the only originals) are what make a McGriff album worth every dollar. Although nothing too surprising happens here, McGriff fans will want to pick up on this cut-out classic.
McGriff fans may also want to note that the German budget label LaserLight has recently reissued two of the organist's Sonny Lester productions: Funkiest Little Band In The Land (a funk compilation which features "Tiki" from Let's Stay Together ), and Tribute To Count Basie, from McGriff's brash 1966 all-star big-band album Jimmy McGriff and The Big Band, featuring arranger / conductor Manny Albam.
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