Brother Jack McDuff – Tobacco Road – Speakers Corner Records 180 Gram vinyl LP Release January 2019 ( Original release Atlantic Records 1967 SD1472) 34:00 ****:
Brother Jack McDuff, a self-taught jazz organist, recorded a prodigious number of albums during his career that helped confirm his place as a celebrated exponent of both hard bop and soul jazz. In the latter category Tobacco Road, originally an Atlantic Records product, has now been re-released on 180 gram vinyl by Speakers Corner Records based in Gettorf, Germany. This is a Pure Analogue pressing with audiophile mastering, that is a delight to the ears.
The album is a double treat in that McDuff uses the underlying standards and pop/rock material in two formats. Firstly, there is a tentet with a brawny horn section that covers half the tracks, with the remainder in the hands of a rocking quartet. McDuff leads the way in his inimitable fashion in both these iterations.
Like most of the fellow organists of the era, they all were influenced one way or another, by the playing of Jimmy Smith. However McDuff never sought to go over the top with his playing. But rather he found a more thoughtful and well-reasoned approach to his improvisation. For example the title track “Tobacco Road” is a blues-folk number by John Loudermilk which utilizes the tentet. McDuff opens with a restrained groove as he lays the groundwork for his soul inspired exposition.
Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webber wrote “The Shadow Of Your Smile” for the 1965 movie The Sandpiper and it won an Academy Award for the Best Original Song. Staying in the upper register of the keyboard, McDuff with the quartet sets down the number in a mellow fashion with Danny Turner chipping in with a solid flute solo.
Side 1 closes with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” backed by the large group. McDuff doesn’t stray far from the melody line that Dylan crafted for the song, and he treats the number with some understatement and emotion.
As with most LP records of this period, the tracks are relatively short in keeping with the requirements of radio and juke box play, and in the hope that one of the tracks would an over the air hit.
Side 2 opens with “And The Angels Sing” which was written by Johnny Mercer and trumpeter Ziggy Elman. It was performed at the 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert and was sung by Martha Tilton. It went on to become a big hit for Goodman and Tilton. In this quartet version, McDuff ups the tempo from the original offering, and in addition to his solid stirring line he adds some vocal moans. Guitarist Calvin Green also shows his inviting fret work.
The longest track on this side is Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Rag Time Band” which was written in 1911 and was Berlin’s first major hit. While it might seem an odd choice for a down home soul jazz offering it works surprising well, and that has everything to do with the players. Booted along by McDuff’s bursting attack, the quartet shows muscle and momentum throughout the track.
If you are looking for a window into what made soul-jazz so appealing, there may not be a better example than this album.
Brother Jack McDuff – Hammond organ; Lonnie Simmons – baritone sax; Red Holloway – tenor sax; Danny Turner – flute & tenor sax; John Watson – trombone; Fred Berry, King Kolax – trumpets; Bobby Christian – vibes, percussion; Ronald Faulkner – guitar; Calvin Green – guitar; Loyal J. Gresham – bass; Robert Guthrie, Joe Dukes – drums
Teardrops From My Eyes
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Can’t Get Satisfied
Blowin’ In The Wind
And The Angels Sing
This Bitter Earth
Alexander’s Rag Time Band
Wade In The Water
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