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Jimmy McGriff: The Dream Team

Douglas Payne By

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Jimmy McGriff returns to Milestone (after a brief sojourn to Telarc) for a better-than-average outing on The Dream Team. This is as good as it gets — at least lately. McGriff, an inventive and exciting blues and funk organist, spent the 1980s on Milestone and produced maybe one exciting performance — "River's Invitation" from 1987's Steppin' Up (with frequent collaborator Hank Crawford). When he strayed to the small label Headfirst in 1991, he got down (and hip) with the terrific In A Blue Mood. But since then, he's been chuggin' out the standards and slogging out ho-hum lounge blues. The Dream Team sort of reunites the cast which initiated McGriff's Milestone tenure in the mid 1980s, The Starting Five : David "Fathead" Newman (who's right on the money here, recalling the glory of his Atlantic days), guitarist Mel Brown and funk trapsman Bernard Purdie. Jazz lost tenor great Rusty Bryant since then. But his replacement, ace alto / tenor man Red Holloway, fits in nicely here.

Things get off to a great start with the ultra-funky jam of David Newman's well-titled "McGriffin" — and all the folks involved rise to the occasion with pure, kick-butt groove. "McGriffin," a great throwback to those early 1970s Prestige jams, seems ripe for sampling but then loses points when it fades after only seven minutes. McGriff and company dig deep into McGriff's jamming "Red Hot `N' New" and bluesy "Fleetwood Stroll." They even rock out Willie Nelson's "Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away." One wishes, however, that McGriff would quit trotting out warhorses like "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" ("Teach Me Tonight" is another frequently heard McGriff standard). But you can't deny the guy swings — even when it sounds like he's fronting a wedding band. He's even mastered the new Hammond XB-3. Here, unlike his previous outing with Hank Crawford ( Right Turn On Blues ), he focuses the XB away from electronic gimmicks and more toward his classic and wonderfully identifiable B-3 sound. It's nice to hear Jimmy McGriff like this, and I highly recommend The Dream Team to the McGriff mob and those folks into some good contemporary acid jazz...but "McGriffin" makes a better title for this disc.

Title: The Dream Team | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: HighNote


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