Illinois Jacquet: Go Power!


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At the tail end of October, I devoted several posts to Wild Bill Davis, who I feel is the true father of the soul-jazz organ. Davis's superb taste, popular success and treatment of the instrument as a big band in the late 1940s and early '50s helped pave the way for all organists who followed. Coming in at No. 2 would have to be Milt Buckner, who began recording on piano with Lionel Hampton in 1946 and switched over to organ in 1951. Even on piano, Buckner treated the keyboard like a Hammond, all but inventing the locked-hands technique, in which he played a song's melody with both hands moving in unison on four-note chords with the melody note on top. The result was a strong, exciting sound.

On March 15, 1966, Buckner on organ teamed with tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet (above) at Lennie's on the Turnpike, a jazz club on Rt. 1 North in Peabody, Mass., just outside of Boston. The evening was recorded, with Alan Dawson on drums, and the date was released by Cadet Records as Go Power!

Go power, indeed. Jacquet began his recording career with Count Basie in the mid-1940s and also was part of promoter Norman Granz's early Jazz at the Philharmonic touring concert series. By 1947, Jacquet was leading his own big bands and small groups. Counted squarely among jazz's “tough tenors," Jacquet is on a list of gruff take-charge players that included Arnett Cobb, Buddy Tate and Eddie “Lockjaw" Davis. They were followed in the '50s by Johnny Griffin, David “Fathead" Newman and King Curtis, among others.

As evidenced by the audience's reaction on Go Power!, Jacquet and Buckner (above) put on quite a show. Jacquet wailed through songs such as On a Clear Day, Robbins Nest, Illinois Jacquet Flies Again (a play on Flying Home), Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man, I Want a Little Girl, Jacquet's Pamela's Blues and Norman Simmons's Jan. For his part, Buckner set a thick groove, throwing out riffs throughout like an R&B horn section. Dawson just had to keep time, and he did so with drive and force.

Buckner and Jacquet would team up again numerous times. They can be heard on albums that include Play, Milt, Play (1966),The King (1968) and The Soul Explosion (1969) as well as about 10 lives albums, including Genius at Work recorded at Ronnie Scott's in London with Tony Crombie on drums in 1971. They were a jazz marriage made in Hammond heaven.

Milt Buckner died in 1977, Illinois Jacquet died in 2004 and Alan Dawson died in 1996.

JazzWax clips: Here's Robbins Nest, a disc jockey theme written by Sir Charles Thompson for Fred Robbins, who hosted his Robbins Nest jazz show on three different New York radio stations...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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