Jazz at 100 Hour 80: Soul Jazz – Organ Trios and Quartets (1957 – 1965)

Jimmy Smith

Rarely has a jazz instrument been so completely redefined as the organ was at the hands of Jimmy Smith. In his wake, the Hammond B3 organ gained wide-spread popularity and attracted a suite of talented adherents. B3 players Jimmy Smith, “Baby Face” Willette and Shirley Scott in this hour of Jazz at 100 as we continue to explore Soul Jazz in the 1960s

“Soul jazz found its own voice most clearly in the electronically produced tones of the Hammond B-3 organ. The B-3’s rough-and-ready, distorted sounds—in theory, they were intended to emulate ‘real’ instruments, but in practice were sui generis— captured the essence of the jazz sensibility, exciting audiences with their unabashed vigor, much as King Oliver’s ‘dirty’ cornet playing had done a generation earlier… it was not until the arrival of Jimmy Smith on the jazz scene in the mid-1950s that the Hammond organ achieved wide recognition as a legitimate jazz instrument. In time, a legion of other keyboardists followed Smith’s example and, by the close of the decade, the Hammond organ was firmly established as a mainstay of soul jazz.” – Ted Gioia

Jimmy Smith.
Partly at [Babs] Gonzales’s urging, Blue Note owners Alfred Lion and Frank Woolf journeyed to Smalls’s to hear the new star. Woolf has left us a vivid description of his first encounter with Smith: “It was at Smalls in January of 1956. He was a stunning sight. A man in convulsions, face contorted, crouched over in apparent agony, his fingers flying, his foot dancing over the pedals. The air was filled with waves of sound I had never heard before. A few people sat around, puzzled but impressed. Jimmy came off the stand, smiling … ‘So what do you think?’ he asked. ’Yeah!’ I said. That’s all I could say. Alfred Lion had already made up his mind.” – David Rosenthal

Jimmy Smith “…quickly established and personified a jazz vocabulary for the organ: tireless walking bass in the pedals, thick chords with the left hand, quick-fire melodic lines with the right. It was a formula almost from the start, and Smith has never strayed from it, but he so completely mastered the approach that he is inimitable. On Groovin’ At Smalls’ Paradise, Smith is in his element in a club setting, and while [guitarist Eddie] McFadden also gets plenty of space …, the master’s big, sprawling solos are definitive: ‘After Hours’ is perhaps the classic Smith blues performance, although the entire record works to a kind of bluesy slow burn.”– Brian Morton & Richard Cook

After Hours. Jimmy Smith Trio
(Jimmy Smith-org, Eddie McFadden-g, Donald Bailey-d). From Groovin’ At Smalls’ Paradise. 11/15/1957

“[The LP] Back At The Chicken Shack … and the subsequent Midnight Special were both recorded on 25 April, 1960, and added tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine to the trio of Smith, [guitarist Kenny] Burrell, and [drummer Donald] Bailey, forming a classic quartet combination. Michael Erlewine suggests in the All Music Guide to Jazz that Back At The Chicken Shack is ‘the quintessential funky soul jazz album. Period.’ … Certainly, it would be hard to find a more representative example … of the genre – you can practically feel the grease as the quartet go about their blues business on the title track, with its lazy, insistent theme and relaxed, insidious groove.” – Kenny Mathieson

“Still another outstanding side from the same period, at least as good as the ones with Turrentine but not quite so successful commercially, was Home Cookin’ with Burrell, saxophonist Percy France, and drummer Donald Bailey. All the tunes on it are blues or blues based, yet each is different from the others. They range from a very slow, after-hours groove on ‘See See Rider’ to a briskly rocking, head-shaking, blues-shouting version of Ray Charles’s ‘I Got a Woman.’” – David Rosenthal

Back At The Chicken Shack. Jimmy Smith Quartet
(Stanley Turrentine-ts, Jimmy Smith-org, Kenny Burrell-g, Donald Bailey-d). From Back At The Chicken Shack. 4/25/1960

I Got A Woman. Jimmy Smith Trio
(Jimmy Smith-org, Kenny Burrell-g, Donald Bailey-d). From Home Cookin’. 5/24/1959

“The session [that produced the title tune to the LP Organ Grinders Swing] teamed Smith … with his frequent and perhaps finest partner … guitarist Kenny Burrell… Smith and Burrell are superb blues players, yet their approaches are different, and they seem to temper each other. Burrell, with his cool sound, economy and harmonic subtlety, brings out the lyricism in Smith, while Smith’s rowdier attack inspires Burrell to lay on the funk.” – Scott Deveaux & Gary Giddins

Organ Grinder’s Swing. Jimmy Smith Trio
(Jimmy Smith-org, Kenny Burrell-g, Grady Tate-d). From Organ Grinder’s Swing. 6/14 – 6/15/1965

Baby Face Willette.
“’Baby Face’ Willette … came from a church background, playing to his father’s congregation in Little Rock… [He] made [the LP] Face to Face a few months after arriving in New York, and it has a driving quality that sets it apart from the hordes of similar [organ jazz] albums Blue Note was making at the time. Willette played great organ bass lines, and he paced himself, finding one area of great swelling intensity per song. The stock chord sequence in tenor-and-organ music was, of course, the blues form. But most such numbers were cheery, light and perfunctory sounding. On Face to Face, there are a number of different kinds of blues, some dark and deep. ‘Goin’ Down’ is the slowest and deepest, with doubled-up triplets in Willette’s organ and Grant Green’s guitar radiating a dire feeling. Willette’s two solos are masterful examples of the classic organ style, with long notes and repeated and accelerated phrase.” – Ben Ratliff

Goin’ Down. “Baby Face” Willette Quartet
(Fred Jackson-ts, “Baby Face” Willette-org, Grant Green-g, Ben Dixon-d). From Face To Face. 1/30/1961

Shirley Scott.
“[In 1955 Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis] formed a trio with organist Shirley Scott that would stay together till the end of the decade. By now, his jazz style had mellowed still further as he evolved into a master of the ballad. On ‘But Beautiful,’ recorded with Scott in 1958, he limits himself to playing the tune, but his time is so loose, his tone so breathy and erotically charged, and his timbre and phrasing so original that he makes it entirely his own.” – David Rosenthal

“Scott wasn’t a knockabout swinger like Jimmy Smith, …but there’s an authority and an unusual sense of power in reserve which keep her music simmering somewhere near the boil. She is a strong blues player and a fine accompanist, and her right-hand lines have a percussive feel that utilizes space more than most organ-players ever did. Of the albums made with her spouse [tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine], Soul Shoutin’ is probably the best bet… It brings together the contents of the original albums The Soul Is Willing and Soul Shoutin’. The title-track off The Soul Is Willing is the near-perfect example of what this combination could do, a fuming Turrentine solo followed by a deftly swinging one by Scott. – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

But Beautiful. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Quintet
(Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis-ts, Jerome Richardson-ts/fl, Shirley Scott-org, George Duvivier-b, Arthur Edgehill-d). From Cookbook, Vol. 1. 6/20/1958

The Soul Is Willing. Shirley Scott – Stanley Turrentine Quartet
(Stanley Turrentine-ts, Shirley Scott-org, Major Holley-b, Grassella Oliphant-d). From The Soul Is Willing. 1/10/1963

Soul Jazz from Hammond B3 players has remained a durable part of the jazz world for the past 50 years through the work of artists like Jimmy McGriff, “Groove” Holmes, Don Patterson, Big John Patton, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Joey DeFrancesco. But it all started with the ground-breaking work of Jimmy Smith.

Soul Jazz developed in the late 1950s and become a staple of ghetto jukeboxes. Its catchy lines, heavy beat and blues-influenced phasing became a popular alternative to other jazz forms evolving in the 1960s. In addition to the guitar and organ led ensembles that have been featured in the previous two hours of Jazz at 100, a number of saxophonists and pianists became best-selling Soul Jazz stars. The Soul Jazz of Lou Donaldson, David “Fathead” Newman, Stanley Turrentine, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Les McCann & Eddie Harris and Cannonball Adderley as we complete our three-part listen to Soul Jazz in the 1960s on Jazz at 100.

The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddins. W.W. Norton 933796.
Jimmy Smith. Groovin’ at Small’s Paradise. Blue Note BLP 1585
Jimmy Smith. Back At The Chicken Shack. Blue Note BLP 4117
Jimmy Smith. Home Cookin’. Blue Note BLP 4050
Jimmy Smith. Organ Grinder Swing
“Baby Face” Willette. Face To Face. Blue Note BLP 4068
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Cookbook, Vol. 1. Prestige PRLP 7141
Shirley Scott. The Soul Is Willing. Prestige PRLP 7267

Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 16. Fusion 1: R&B, Singers, and Latin Jazz
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7 – The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles.
Mathieson, Kenny. 2002. Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65. Canongate Books.
Jimmy Smith
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Jimmy Smith. Groovin’ At Small’s Paradise
Shirley Scott. Soul Shoutin’
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 61. “Baby Face” Willette. Face To Face (1961)
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 6. Tenors and Organs

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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