Scott Faragher is author of The Hammond Organ: An Introduction to the Instrument and the Players Who Made It Famous (Hal Leonard). It's a terrific new softcover book that tells you everything you will ever want to know about the Hammond organ and then some. It's a book about America's most potent crossover instrument by a writer who is deeply passionate about the subject. Fortunately, his publisher had the good sense to use mostly color photos to illustrate the pages. [Pictured at top: Scott Faragher]
Yesterday in Part 1, we talked about the Hammond organ's rise—from Fats Waller, Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett to Jimmy Smith and beyond. Today, a slightly different approach.
In Part 2 of my chat with Scott, we're done analyzing. It's time to get down and talk about Hammond organ albums of note:
JazzWax: In general, what type of Hammond organ albums does an enthusiast like yourself enjoy most?
Scott Faragher: I love how the organ stands out on the early gospel recordings by artists who appeared on Nashville’s Nashboro Records. These included records by Brother Joe May and, later on, Oris Mays' Bound For Mt. Zion and Dr. Morgan Babb’s Pray for Me.
JW: What about the organ as a backdrop instrument?
SF: I like Billy Stewart’s Sitting in the Park and I Do Love You—two of the most emotionally moving R&B records ever cut. But then sometimes I want screaming Hammond organ, as in the early works of hard-rock groups like Deep Purple or Steppenwolf. On the jazz side, there’s the little-known Reuben Wilson and his version of Cisco Kid and Last Tango in Paris.
JW: Now we're going to get specific. If you were to choose just 10 Hammond organ albums, what would they be.
SF: Let's give it a shot…
Hank Marr Quartette—Live at Club 502 (King/1964). This is without a doubt my favorite organ record of all time. Unlike many so-called live albums, this is not diluted by studio overdubs. It’s live and raw all the way through. Marr's version of One O’clock Jump is dizzyingly intense. The interplay with the organ between guitarist Wilbert Longmire and Rusty Bryant’s tenor sax are on point all the way through.
[This track isn't from the 502 album but it will give you a sense of how great Marr was...]
Richard “Groove” Holmes—The Best of the Pacific Jazz Years (Pacific Jazz). Holmes is lightning fast but always clean and crisp. His own Groovin’ Time displays his virtuosity at high speeds, but he is equally at home with Gene Ammons' tenor sax. Holmes was a master of pedal bass and was skilled not only with single note lead playing, but with block chords as rhythm—a style that has its detractors, but I’m not one of them. Nothing displays the Hammond organ’s incredible power like a well-placed chord inserted at the proper place.
Wild Bill Davis—The Everest Years (Universal). Davis is considered the father of the jazz organ. Beginning in 1951, Davis was recognized as such even by the great Jimmy Smith, who was without doubt the most influential jazz organist of all time. This compilation shows why he was nicknamed “Wild Bill.” He rocks throughout, playing a heavy lead mostly with chords rather than with single notes—an organ style he created. Davis might also be the originator of the practice of vocal growling as it applies to the jazz organ, a style frequently employed by Jack McDuff and others. Listen to Blues For Joe and ‘Round Midnight.
Deep Purple—Shades of Deep Purple (Eagle Records/1968). Sometimes I just want to hear the Hammond cut loose. There’s nothing like this CD reissue of the original LP, which contains the rock remake of Joe South’s classic Hush, with Jon Lord’s screaming organ solo, arguably the best rock organ solo ever recorded.
Bill Doggett—Wow! (ABC/1964). Doggett was one of the original Hammond players, having switched from piano to organ in 1951. While his biggest hit record, Honky Tonk Part 1, was more of a sax record than an organ side, Doggett was a master of the instrument and his style is all his own. What I particularly like about Wow! is that Doggett steps out more as a lead instrumentalist here than elsewhere.
[Here's the title track. I apologize in advance for the dopey video that accompanies the track...]
Junior Walker and the All Stars—19 Greatest Hits (Motown). Junior Walker is best known as a Motown-era tenor sax player and vocalist with numerous hit records including Shotgun, These Eyes and What Does It Take. While some of his hit records contain minimal organ, the instrument in the hands of Vic Thomas was an integral part of his sound in the studio and on the road.
Brian Auger—Auger Rhythms (Quicksilver). British organist Brian Auger is considered by many to be the father of acid jazz and is one of the most interesting and unique and versatile organists in the jazz pantheon. He has an extensive body of work spanning more than 50 years, including recordings with his groups—The Trinity, the Oblivion Express and Steam Packet, as well as his own solo work.
[Here's Brian Auger, c. 1968...]
Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio—Foxy Lady (MusicMasters/1996). Smith plays the organ like a guitar. There is a guitar present, as John Abercrombie joins drummer Marvin Smith in making this work extremely well. This CD was released in 1996, and as soon as I heard it I took a marker and wrote across the front of the cover “Baddest of the Bad” just so I wouldn’t forget.
[Here's Lonnie Smith's Foxy Lady...]
Melvin Rhyne—The Wes Montgomery Trio (Riverside/1959).This album marks the start of guitarist Wes Montgomery’s solo career. Here he’s joined by organist Melvin Rhyne, also an Indianapolis native. As album producer Orrin Keepnews observed in the liner notes, Rhyne’s music is without the heavy-handed chomping that burdens so many jazz organists.
Walter Wanderley—Rain Forest (Verve/1966). The bossa nova took off with vocalist Astrud Gilberto’s Girl From Ipanema in the early 1960s. There were other Brazilian artists, of course, including Luiz Bonfa, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and organist Walter Wanderley. Wanderley was one of the most unique organists of the period. He was super fast and lyrical with heavily applied, seemingly all-pervasive, reverb. Normally, this would be overbearing, but in the case of Wanderley, it augments rather than detracts from his music.
[Here's the magnificent Walter Wanderley playing Summer Samba from Rain Forest...]
JazzWax pages: If you have any interest in the Hammond organ, Scott Faragher's Hammond Organ: An Introduction to the Instrument and the Players Who Made It Famous is the bible. The 389-page paperback features color photos and everything you'd want to know about the intrument, from models and speakers to the players. You'll find it here.