If organists were vehicles, Brother Jack McDuff's sound would be one of those oversized off-road trucks with huge tires. His attack on the Hammond was massive and rock solid, laying down a double-thick bass line and meaty chords. McDuff came on the scene in the late 1950s, when establishments along the Midwest club circuit hired jazz-soul organists to replace more expensive ensembles. The organ, with its big-band feel, was a natural to pair with a saxophone, which is how McDuff first gained visibility.
McDuff began his music career on bass but switched to organ at the suggestion of saxophonist Willis Jackson, in whose group he played. In 1960, McDuff went out on his own, recording steadily for Prestige Records. In the wake of Jimmy Smith's organ success in the late '50s, Prestige began adding jazz-soul artists to capitalize on gospel-R&B's popularity and to market singles in jukeboxes and on radio stations popular with black urban audiences.
In January 1962, McDuff recorded a superb bluesy album for Prestige with tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons called Brother Jack Meets the Boss. The title was a bit misleading, however, since saxophonist Harold Vick was on the session as well. McDuff, Ammons and Vick were backed by Eddie Diehl on guitar and Joe Dukes on drums.
The opener, Watch Out, is an up-tempo blues featuring Ammons and Vick (above) together. Vick plays solo on Horace Silver's Strollin', and Ammons re-joins the group for the balance on Mellow Gravy, Louis Prima's Christopher Columbus, McDuff's Buzzin' Around and Eddie Cleanhead" Vinson's Mr. Clean, a barnstormer.
After McDuff hired guitarist George Benson in 1963, they began recording together steadily through 1966. McDuff died in January 2001 of an apparent heart attack.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Brother Jack Meets the Boss on CD here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Jack McDuff and the group playing Mr. Clean, with Ammons taking the first saxophone solo and Vick the second...
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