This has been a strange week for me. I spent the whole week listening to a great jazz album that I wanted to share with you. I mean I listened to their CD in my car on my way to and from work every day, and more than once while I was working.
To say I fell in love with the album would be an understatement. It’s a superb effort by a group who shall go unnamed at present. I will say that two of their principals hail from the Pacific NW, although they did move to the east coast some time back. And apparently they get little national exposure.
They get so little exposure, in fact, that I could find very little about them online to include as, shall we say, “fattener” “sweetener” for this review. My yard sale copy of their CD is missing the liner notes, so I don’t have even that to fall back on.
I was going to just “wing it,” but finally decided that if I’m going to give you a review with very little in the way of a biography, I would make it about someone who needs little by way of help from me (or anyone else) in that regard.
So as a last-minute substitute I give you one of the true icons of jazz in his second appearance here on Jazz For A Saturday Night!
Jack McDuff, aka “Brother” Jack and/or “Captain” Jack, was one of the greatest of the early Hammond B3 organ players, along with Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff and others. (See JFASN #70 for my earlier piece on another McDuff album, “Another Real Good ‘Un“.)
I must admit to having a bit of a love/hate relationship with organ music. Some of it, frankly, sounds like glorified circus music. That is not the case with Jack McDuff, however. McDuff was a fine craftsman who took great pains to create jazz, not circus music.
Before I go any further, I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to “Downtown” Steve Brown, who for years was the Thursday AM drive-time host on KMHD and who first introduced me to Jack McDuff and I have no idea how many other jazz organists via his program. Steve loved jazz organ music, and every week he featured at least one great organ piece on his show. Steve left KMHD for personal reasons quite a few years ago, and Thursday early mornings haven’t been the same since.
To get back to the business at hand, this time around I want to talk about another album of his that is, if anything, even better than “Another Real Good ‘Un,” and that is his last album, “Brotherly Love.”
The bulk of this album was recorded March 6-8 2000, less than a year before McDuff’s death on January 23, 2001. The final two tracks are unreleased recordings laid down live at the 28th Concord Jazz Festival on September 29, 1996.
The personnel for this disk are:
Jack McDuff, Hammond B3 organ
Frank Gravis, bass (tracks 1-7)
Grady Tate, drums (tracks 1-7)
Andrew Beals, alto sax (tracks 8 & 9)
John Hart, guitar (tracks 8 & 9)
Jerry Weldon, tenor sax (tracks 8 & 9)
Rudy Petschauer, drums (tracks 8 & 9)
Joey DeFrancesco, Hammond B3 organ (tracks 8 & 9)
Pat Martino, guitar (tracks 1-7)
Red Holloway, tenor sax (tracks 1-3, 5-7) and alto sax (track 4)
“Brotherly Love” gives us nine tracks, six of which are McDuff originals, including the opener, “Hot Barbecue.” This is one of those timeless jazz classics that will forever be associated with the Hammond B3 organ and Jack McDuff. Not surprisingly, the guys give it a superb rendition.
Here is an uncredited version of McDuff doing “Hot Barbecue”:
Next we have “Vas Dis,” a lesser-known McDuff song and seemingly one of the few whose title has nothing to do with food! J The incomparable sax player Red Holloway does a knockout job on this one, as does drummer Tate.
“Kettle Of Fish,” the third McDuff original here, is a bit livelier than “Vas Dis.” At first McDuff settles for being in the background while Holloway and guitarist Martino both get a lot of mic time. They do a standout job, of course, before “Captain” Jack takes over again.
The Hoagy Carmichael standard “Georgia” is up next. This is a quiet, unassuming little ballad that has never gone out of “style” since Carmichael wrote it lo those many years ago.
I am, as has become normal around here recently, running very late this week, so I’m going to have to skip ahead and hit the two tracks that were recorded live in 1996.
“Pork Chops And Pasta” is one of “Brother Jack’s” perennial favorites, and this version will certainly show you why. Paired with former child prodigy Joey DeFrancesco, McDuff and company tear their way through this one. The audience eats it up and so will you.
While the audience is still vigorously applauding “Pork Chops And Pasta,” the guys launch into the closer, “Rock Candy.” Solos to listen for: saxophonist Weldon’s and guitar player John Hart are both knock-outs on this one!
Here is a different version of “Rock Candy” that “Brother Jack” recorded in 1968 with Cliff Davis on sax; Roland Faulkner and Phil Upchurch on guitar; Morris Jennings on drums; and others:
It should be fairly obvious to you by now that, in my opinion, Jack McDuff’s “Brotherly Love” will make a superb addition to any jazz lover’s personal playlist for a Saturday, or any other night.
To learn more about “Brother” Jack McDuff and his music, Bob Porter has a brief bio of him on the allmusic.com web site.
Thank you for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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