Subtle But Groovin' Soul Jazz Star: Jack McDuff Dies at 74


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Jack McDuff, who was often known as Brother Jack McDuff, but later upgraded that honorific to Captain (an image completed by a jaunty, Count Basie-style yachting cap), was one of the handful of leading exponents of the soul jazz style created on Hammond organ by Jimmy Smith in the late 1950s. Soul jazz was one of the most popular (and populist) of all jazz-based styles, and remains so today.

Although it had its roots in the piano work of Horace Silver, the instrument at the heart of the soul jazz style was the Hammond B-3 organ, usually in the company of electric guitar, drums, and often tenor saxophone. The Hammond electric (and later electronic) organ was introduced by Laurens Hammond in Chicago in 1935, and found an early use in churches and public halls.

The emergence of Jimmy Smith as a major star on the instrument sparked its widespread use in jazz and pop music in the early 1960s, and McDuff was among its most successful practitioners. Its initial popularity in both jazz and rock had peaked by the end of the decade, and it was later largely superseded for a time by more contemporary developments in keyboard technology, but it retained serious cult status among its devotees, and those musicians who still preferred the challenge of actually having to play everything themselves. The instrument enjoyed an ongoing revival from the mid-1980s, sparked in part by the burgeoning jazz dance and Acid Jazz scenes.

Jack McDuff was born Eugene McDuffy, and taught himself to play piano and organ, but later studied for a time at college in Cincinnati. He began playing professionally as a bass player with pianist Denny Zeitlin and reeds player Joe Farrell, then led his own group as a pianist in the Midwest in the early 1950s. He was active in Chicago in the late 1950s, where he played with Johnny Griffin and Max Roach, among others, and was in a group led by tenor saxophonist Willis

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