Organ master Jimmy McGriff may have studied formally at Juilliard and at Philadelphia's Combe College of Music, but there's nothing fancy about his music. It's basic to the bone, always swinging and steeped in blues and gospel. McGriff's brand of jazz is about feeling. "That's the most important thing," he says.
Blues has been the backbone of most of the major jazz organists, including Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, but throughout his 42-year recording career, McGriff has stuck closer to the blues than any of them. "People are always classifying me as a jazz organist, but I'm more of a blues organ player," he insists. "That's really what I feel."
McGriff's recordings of "I've Got a Woman" and "All About My Girl" were r&b and jukebox staples during the Sixties. With McGriff Avenue, his fourteenth album for Milestone (counting the five he's cut as co-leader with Hank Crawford), the Hammond organ grinder remains true to the blues grounding for which he's famous. The way things turned out, McGriff Avenue was not just another record date for the organist and his sidemen, as producer Bob Porter recounts in the CD notes. Porter had booked a noon session at Rudy Van Gelder's New Jersey studio for September 11th, 2001, but that morning he quickly realized—especially since bridge and tunnel access to and from Manhattan was cut off soon after the World Trade Center towers were hit—that the session was not going to take place as scheduled.
When the record date was rescheduled for six weeks later, some personnel adjustments were necessary. Although Bill Easley, Ronnie Cuber, and bassist Wilbur Bascomb were able to make both days of recording, Purdie was replaced on the second day by Don Williams. Guitarist Rodney Jones couldn't make the first session, but he contributed the funky title track (and was ably replaced by Melvin Sparks-Hassan).
Saxophonist Gordon Beadle, a veteran of Duke Robillard's band, is new to the McGriff orbit, but the other players have extensive histories with the organist. The great drummer Bernard Purdie has appeared on most of McGriff's Milestone discs, and Don Williams has been a member of McGriff's touring band for years. Likewise Rodney Jones, Ronnie Cuber, Melvin Sparks-Hassan, Wilbur Bascomb, and Bill Easley are all McGriff familiars who deliver the "gospel/blues-kinda flavor" the leader finds much to his liking. The performances on the McGriff shuffle "All About My Girl," Jimmy Forrest's "Soul Street," and the sanctified "America, The Beautiful" make that absolutely clear.Read more
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