Groove Holmes: Soul Message


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The early 1960s was a hot time for the Hammond organ, especially on the Prestige label. The surge in organ players at clubs in the late 1950s had to do with three trends. First, in 1959, Hammond came out with its A-100 series that was slimmer and more preferred as a road instrument than the B-style cabinet. Second, as a dominant instrument in a jazz or soul group, the Hammond had all-in-one efficiency; all you needed was a drummer, guitarist and a socket. And third, and perhaps most important, organist Jimmy Smith was all the rage at Blue Note.

Richard “Groove" Holmes was among Prestige's most popular players in the early '60s and beyond. Which was a big deal considering that the label also recorded Brother Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Shirley Scott, Johnny “Hammond" Smith, Charles Earland, Trudy Pitts and Charles Kynard among others. What sets Holmes apart is that he typically set a fabulous groove and worked it on both originals and standards. He also wasn't a pianist turned organist. He started on the instrument in his hometown of Camden, N.J., and had his flavor from the start.

On Soul Message, recorded in August 1965, Holmes was accompanied by Gene Edwards (g) and Jimmie Smith (d). The big hit off the album was a funky cover of Erroll Garner's Misty. It went to #44 on Billboard's pop chart. In addition to Misty, Holmes had three other hits on the chart—What Now My Love, Secret Love and The More I See You—all in 1966.

The interesting thing about this album is that it's perfect. There's no wheel-spinning here. Each track—Groove's Groove, Dahoud, Misty, Song for My Father, The Things We Did Lat Summer and Soul Message—is hip and sharply shaped. As for guitarist Gene Edwards, the bulk of his brief five-year recording career in the early 1960s was with Holmes. He's gorgeous on every track, delivering hard-edged, soulful lines. As for drummer Jimmie Smith (no relation to organist Jimmy), he has played drums behind virtually everyone and is still with us.

Richard “Groove" Holmes, one of Prestige's tastiest Hammond players, died in 1991.

JazzWax clip: Here's the entire album in tracks, starting with the first...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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