Category Archives: Ray Charles

Home Cookin’: The Incredible Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith Home Cookin' cover-2

Why should I bother with this:- Jimmy Smith pretty much led the way in popularising the Hammond organ in a jazz setting. A superb blues set featuring the seldom recorded Percy France on tenor sax. Smith, Burrell and France play with great feeling to compliment each other perfectly. Fairly laid back- but just put it on in company and just wait for somebody to ask what this great music is.

The band etc:- Jimmy Smith (Hammond organ); Percy France (tenor sax); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Donald Bailey (drums). Recorded 15 July 1958, May 24 1959 and June 16 1959. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Ira Gitler. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4050.

The Music:- “Oh no! Not more of that harpsichord thing” is a sentence that I’ve heard on numerous occasions. The world is divided between those who like and those who loathe the Hammond organ. This is a set that will delight the believers and win over converts, with its exquisite proclamations of the blues.

See See Rider is the delightfully restrained and slow-paced opener; a track for the small hours. Not a note is wasted by any of the three soloists with Percy France’s second short solo and his interplay with Smith afterwards being especially good. The following YouTube posting is courtesy of nagusd

France sits out for Sugar Hill with the trio also offering a simmering version of the Ray Charles hit I Got A Woman. Side one of the album closes with Messin’ Around, a slightly faster paced vehicle.

Gracie, another mid-paced blues opens the second half with an extended opportunity for France and Burrell to play compelling evocative solos.

Ira Gitler’s 1959 sleeve notes on the second track date badly when he writes words advising ‘men’ to ‘…use this track with caution on bashful females’. You can be the judge of whether Come on Baby should be only available on licence by listening to it yourself although as of 2 May 2017 it was unavailable at YouTube.

The album closes with Motorin Along, which is an apt title for a track which conjures up an image the open road, perhaps an imagined New England Turnpike, with your foot pressing on the accelerator. The sleeve recounts how Jimmy Smith used an old hearse to carry his organ and its essential Leslie speakers from gig to gig. Apparently, however, hearses were banned from thruways and turnpikes unless they were being used for their usual purpose. The story goes that drummer Donald Bailey was the regular nominated corpse, most memorably when the hearse had to travel to the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival.

I’ve found it rather hard to find a first pressing or early Blue Note copy of Home Cookin’ that hasn’t had the life played out of it, itself a marker of what a great album it is. However, I’ve currently got a pre-Liberty vinyl pressing that sounds great. This is one of those recordings where it is worth getting hold of the CD, which has a further five tracks, of which Apostrophe, a Percy France tour de force with a marked nod to Charlie Parker’s influence is well worth hearing.

Lots of people really like the cover. I think it is good but not that special. However, I highly commend the music contained within and hope you will enjoy it too.

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A good excuse to write about Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’

The pre-ramble:-  “It’s a funny old world”, as the late comedian Malcolm Hardee used to say.  After a late night getting ready to push the publish button on this blog, a mercifully quiet day at work followed.  Being within easy striking distance of Central London I was in Soho in a trice for a quick spin round the record shops on Berwick Street.  My main reason for going there was to see the pop-up shop put together to display some amazing Clash memorabilia to celebrate the launch of a new greatest hits collection.  Seeing the band’s guitars was on a par with seeing John Coltrane’s main tenor sax or Miles Davis’s original mouthpiece- although I’m sure neither of them would have scratched their names into their instruments as Mick Jones had done with his one of his guitars- a good way to get it back if it is nicked I suppose.

The gig:-  This set me up nicely for a Friday night in a nearby music pub where Chris Holland was celebrating his birthday with a gig.  By strange coincidence, yesterday’s post mentioned Billy Taylor and ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ (perhaps best known to most as ‘that filmnight theme tune’)and this was the second tune that I caught tonight.  The rest of the set took us from Professor Longhair and Dr John in New Orleans to Memphis and Booker T and The MG’s via Ray Charles (more of whom in a moment).  The band featured Chris Holland on electric boogie woogie funkified piano, bass, lead guitar, sax and drums played by aristocrats of the South East London music scene with Seamus Duplicate on a pared down Hammond MX3 organ.

downwithit 'Chris Holland' 'The Pelton'

It was a solo from the Hammond that lit up the venue and touched the parts that move and groove.  Highpoint for me was the Rolling Stones ‘Shine a Light on Me’, originally featuring Billy Preston.  It made me think of the night several years ago when he was due to play at The Royal Festival Hall with the remaining members of The Funk Brothers (the band that played on most of the classic Motown Hits).  He was indisposed and in a tongue in cheek manner the MC introduced a young substitute who used to play with touring soul bands in the 60’s.  It was a certain Mr Steve Winwood!  I’ve made a mental note to turn up the volume a tad when I listen to a Hammond set as it is a very fine and much maligned instrument.

The recording:-  All of that leads me on to the record under consideration.  I was going for something lower key.  However, a night of maximum RnB was missing only one key element- jazz tambourine- which appears with aplomb on Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’.  Don Wilkerson was the tenor sax soloist on Ray Charles classics including: I Got a Woman and This Little Girl of Mine.  He was encouraged by Ike Quebec to record the first of three Blue Note sessions, of which “Preach Brother!’ was second.

I’ve never heard a Blue Note track quite like the opener of Side 2: ‘Camp Meetin’.  A rolling piano accompanied by tambourine is joined by a vocalist, whose ‘Weeeeeeeeeell at that old camp meetin…’ leads us in to a gutsy RnB tenor solo and Grant Green’s finger picking good guitar (there will be much more about Grant Green in future posts).

There’s a YouTube link to “Camp Meetin’ posted by groove addict here:-

The closing track on Side 1 ‘Dem Tambourines’ is another stormer but probably not for those of immobile feet and a gentle jazz disposition- who may like Sonny Clark’s wonderful piano on Pigeon Peas.  The link to ‘Dem Tambourines’ posted on YouTube by retrospeko follows:-

The band etc:-  Don Wilkerson (tenor sax); Grant Green (guitar) Sonny Clark (piano); Butch Warren (bass) Billy Higgins (drums).  Recorded: 18 June 1962.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Dudley Williams.  Cover photo: Reid Miles.  Issued as Blue Note 4107.

What a graphically strong cover, by the way!

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