This is not the first time I have written about Jimmy McGriff and Hank Crawford. They caught my ear early on and I have a number of their albums. On January 12 of 2013 in JFASN #64, I wrote about their “Best Of” album. On July 13 of 2013, I wrote about Jimmy’s album “Blue To The Bone” in JFASN #81. And way back on August 13 of 2011, JFASN #1 was about one of Jimmy’s best albums of all time, “The Dream Team.”
It’s really hard to find something new to say when you’re writing about a couple of guys like this, of whom just about everything it’s possible to say has already been said. About all you really can do is say they were the best at what they did, and leave it at that.
The Jimmy McGriff – Hank Crawford album I want to tell you about this time around is the 1996 Telarc release, “Blues Groove.”
The personnel for this one were:
Jimmy McGriff, Hammond XB-3 organ
Hank Crawford, alto saxophone
Vance James, drums
Wayne Boyd, guitar
“Blues Groove” presents us with ten songs, only one of which was penned by any of the artists featured here. That one is the opener, McGriff’s piece “Movin’ Upside The Blues.” Guitarist Boyd solos after McGriff’s opener and does a superb job of it. McGriff then returns and the guys carry it on to the end.
This is a great tune on it’s own, but it also makes a great showcase for McGriff’s mastery of the Hammond XB-3, successor to the longtime workhorse of the electronic organ, the legendary Hammond B3.
After “Blues Groove” we are treated to the Neal Hefti classic, “Splanky.” (In the linker notes by Bob Porter, we are informed that “Splanky” was one of Count Basie’s nicknames.) With Crawford in the lead, this is another great song, one whose melody is instantly recognizable even if you can’t for the life of you remember the title.
The next song, Slide Hampton’s “Frame For The Blues,” starts off slowly, sounding as mournful and introspective as one would expect from a true blues piece. Crawford’s alto seems especially poignant here, as does McGriff’s big, deep-throated XB-3 when he takes over.
Here are the guys performing “Frame For The Blues”:
Another standout is the Miles Davis classic, “All Blues.” Despite the unusual opening few seconds, this turns out to be an enjoyable version of a song that will never lose its appeal. Crawford’s alto seems almost to be carrying on a conversation with an unseen/unheard companion.
No Jimmy McGriff album would be complete without an homage to his mentor and hero, Jimmy Smith. On “Blues Groove” that tribute comes in the form of the song “The Sermon.” This comparatively quiet song was one of Smith’s more popular compositions and McGriff’s version amply demonstrates why.
The last song I have time enough to write about is Les McCann’s “Could Be.” This is another of those songs whose melody is instantly recognizable to just about every jazz fan. Boyd’s fretwork is a standout here, although he is regrettably stuck mostly in the background. Crawford nails the mood with his soulful alto, as does Boyd when he gets one more all too brief moment in the limelight.
“Blues Groove” from the Jimmy McGriff – Hank Crawford Quartet would make a fantastic addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
If you would like to learn more about Jimmy McGriff and his music, here is a 2002 interview with McGriff and fellow organist Joey DeFrancesco:
Likewise, here is an undated interview with Hank Crawford:
Thank you for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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