Just as a proud farmer might drive his tractor over freshly plowed dirt, spreading seed for new crops, Reuben Wilson sits behind the console of his Hammond B-3 organ, and uses the roots of rhythm and blues to develop tunes for future generations of organists. As the new plants sprout from the farmer's fertile soil, so does new music evolve from the bed-of-Blues laid down by Mr. Wilson… I'd call that true Organic Farming…
For it is the Blues that separates the Jazz Organ music created by Wild Bill Davis and Jimmy Smith from the Popular Organ music of Jesse Crawford and Ethel Smith. The Blues is the crucial element that must not be left out in the creation of Jazz Organ music. That is, if one truly wishes to follow the path in this rich legacy. All too often, younger players come forth with adventurous and even inspirational interpretations of Jazz Organ classics but they forget to play the blues! Many Rock Organists, albeit exciting and commercially successful, also keep a blues-less profile. If Jazz Organ is truly going to survive, if must adhere to the fundamental Blues-rule. Thankfully, recordings like this from Reuben Wilson help to re-establish priorities in the creation process and serve to preserve the genre.
We should be grateful in this first decade of the new millennium that many of our Jazz Organ Masters are alive and well. And, thanks to some of the younger players, they are back on their feet with commercial recognition once again directed their way. Players like Jimmy Smith, the late Jack McDuff, Hank Marr, Jimmy McGriff, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Reuben Wilson are a few who have contributed so much in the last ten years, receiving more commercial recognition, I dare say, than any of them received during the hey-day of Jazz Organ. Their music may not be new in it's structure but nevertheless important in its presence…as it serves as the continuing model for those who wish to carry the torch. Schooling for those who might follow in their footsteps seems a bigger and more important contribution. The founding fathers (and mothers, if you will) had no formal training in Jazz Organ. They all learned from the University-of-the-Street! Today, however, they can offer students of Jazz Organ an authentic curriculum for the REAL DEAL. So, with Organ Blues we have Professor Reuben Wilson's class now in session!
In this recording, Reuben Wilson shows us how it's done. His smooth, slow-burning style embodies the core elements of Jazz Organ, primarily with the infusion of Blues. When one sees Reuben in person, the notion of a big man towering-over yet completely comfortable with the Hammond organ comes to mind. Slightly bend at the shoulders with a fixed, yet peaceful expression, Reuben plays the music that he's been serious about for forty years. In fact, when he first came to New York in the sixties, he quickly found himself jamming with the established players of the day. It's somewhat nostalgic to see him now, recording with the son of one such hero. Guitarist, Grant Green, Jr. certainly adds to the quality of Reuben's modern day groove as he cleverly rekindles the famous sound laid down by his Dad so many years ago. Grant Green, Jr. plays his guitar upside-down and yet his sound is truly right-side up! He blends magnificently with Reuben's organ playing and lends treasured tones to the final product.
Also adding proof of authenticity is drummer Bernard Purdie. 'Pretty' Purdie has arguably played with more jazz organists than any other drummer on the planet. His beat is solid and rock-steady. He's a pocket drummer with prowess to do anything and go anywhere he needs to go to make it happen. This assures the organist and gives him/her license to cut loose. Tenor saxophonist Melvin Butler is as smooth as butter throughout the session. His voice is a strong but soothing component in this combo. He allows others to think in a variety of ways and create on several different levels. He's got the tenor-organ language down.
Reuben's tribute to Jack McDuff, 'Blues For McDuff', provides a robust opener. It reveals classic excursions for Jazz Organ playing. 'Please Send Me Someone To Love', is nicely set in time with Reuben bending the groove to make us swing and sway. His 'Old Time Shuffle' reminds us that the beat makes all the difference in the world. It's Happy Music played with reverence and charm. Just about every Jazz Organist plays a Jimmy Smith head one time or another. It's almost irreverent to disregard the JOS factor. Reuben puts his own chickens in Jimmy's 'Back at the Chicken Shack'. It funky, it's bluesy and it's all Reuben Wilson. Since traditional Rhythm and Blues permeate this session, a perfect tune to add is 'Honey Dripper'. Here Reuben and company take us way back for some real fun. Toes be tappin' and hands be clappin'! 'After Hours' is another example of classic R & B resurrected for the lure of all Hammond organ addicts. The tune has had so many interpretations through the years but this one seems to want to stay in your mind. Willow Weep For Me' is a slow, swirling ride that could be used for love making or any of many late night adventures.
Years ago when Louis Jordan sang, 'Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out', we all knew what he meant. The meaning may change depending upon the stock market but the feeling is always there. Reuben gives this ageless message a spirited quality and rollicking ride. Hope is the message and the Blues is the vehicle. With Reuben Wilson, the groove will continue to move forward.
Thanks goes to Reuben Wilson for this lesson in down-home music. It's REAL…cause it's the Blues!
KUSP, Santa Cruz
KCSM, San Mateo
For more information about Organ Blues, see the Jazzateria website.