This funky little holiday gem from 1964 was originally released on Sue Records and was actually Jimmy McGriff's highest charting album, rising to number 15 on the pop charts that year. Naturally his gritty Hammond B-3 playing is front and center here, given wonderful support by drummer Jimmie Smith, guitarist Larry Frazier, and Rudolph Johnson on soprano and tenor saxophone. The whole affair is surprisingly energetic and spunky, and tracks like the hard-charging "Christmas With McGriff," the sleigh bell-embedded "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," and the lively "Hip Santa" are all wonderful examples of upbeat soul jazz. Even the version of "Jingle Bells" that closes the set is funked up, riding a chugging rhythm and a bed of sleigh bells into the yuletide night. McGriff could have easily gone through the motions on this holiday session, and that he obviously didn't makes Christmas With Jimmy McGriff even more endearing.
Soul-jazz and Hammond B3 pioneer Jimmy McGriff made the Groove Merchant record label his home base for the better part of the 1970s, releasing the often overlooked Fly Dude in 1972. This is McGriff at his most varied. Working with Ronald Arnold on tenor saxophone, George Freeman and John Thomas on guitars, and Marion Booker Jr. on drums, McGriff tackles a Jimmy Smith tune ("Jumping the Blues"), a Memphis Slim classic ("Everyday I Have the Blues"), and a bop touchstone by sax great Charlie Parker ("Yardbird Suite").
Between 1976 and 1979, Jimmy McGriff was often featured in the disco-style productions of Groove Merchant house arranger Brad Baker. The records usually surrounded the great organist with a huge army of studio musicians, big horn sections, string parts and often heard McGriff playing keyboards other than organ. THE MEAN MACHINE, from 1976, was the first of these productions and McGriff doesn't even play organ here.
Over at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Jersey during the '90s, it was just like 1969 with soul-jazz sessions bursting forth at a more leisurely yet no less insistent clip. This could only mean that Hank Crawford and co-billed leader Jimmy McGriff were at it again, playing off the Bernard Purdie shuffle on the first two tracks, and cruising through ballads, blues, and cover tunes with the assurance of those who had the genre in their bloodstream. A high point is Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," as Crawford has the soul and restraint to make a fresh case for a slightly over-recorded contemporary tune.
Due to the strong lineup and the basic but perfectly suitable material, this Jimmy McGriff CD is well worth picking up. The groovin' organist teams up with David "Fathead" Newman (heard on alto, tenor and flute), Rusty Bryant (doubling on tenor and alto), either Mel Brown or Wayne Boyd on guitar, and drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. Basic originals alternate with such standbys as "I'm Getting Sentimental over You" and "Georgia on My Mind," with everyone playing up to their potential. A fun and swinging session.
Features the high-fidelity SHM-CD format (compatible with standard CD player) and the latest 24bit 192kHz remastering. One of the most hard-hitting Jimmy McGriff albums of the 70s – a raw live date recorded in Newark – and a set that's a perfect bridge between the sharp soul of his Sue Records sessions and his later funk to come! The whole thing's got a gritty vibe the really recalls the sound of a Hammond combo in a small club back in the day – a sense of recording that's different than the usual Blue Note record, and we mean that in a good way! Future Groove Merchants Fats Theus and O'Donel Levy are both on the record – the former on tenor, the latter on guitar – and Jimmy gets plenty of room to really open up and soar on the Hammond. The group also features the lesser-known Ronald White on trumpet and Joseph Morris on alto – and titles include "In A Mellow Tone", "Groove Alley" and "Man From Bad" – and a nice cover of "Ode to Billie Joe"!
Jimmy McGriff's B-3 sound was always rooted in blues and gospel, and his soloing could be very smooth and polished. But every once in a while, he had to break out of his own soul box and tear it up on a session. The Worm, issued on Solid State Records in 1968, is the very first place he did. This is the first true, all-out funky burner from McGriff, and it sounds very different from most of the other titles on his shelf. Having a band like this helps: trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Fats Theus (with Bob Ashton on baritone and Danny Turner on alto), alternating drummers Mel Lewis and Grady Tate, bassist Bob Bushnell, and guitarist Thornel Schwartz were all in their prime in 1968. The title track, written by McGriff, Theus, and producer Sonny Lester, sets the tone for the whole platter.
The Sonny Lester-produced Soul Sugar looms large in Jimmy McGriff's vast catalog – while it's a fool's errand to pick the organist's absolute funkiest recording, this one demands serious consideration. Without personnel credits, it's impossible to know who's backing McGriff here, but the rhythm section is nonetheless superb – cuts like "Dig on It" (later sampled by A Tribe Called Quest), "Fat Cakes," and "The Now Thing" rival the Meters for sheer soulfulness. The covers are no less impressive – while renditions of James Brown's "Ain't It Funky Now," Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," and Aretha Franklin's "Spirit in the Dark" remain true to the spirit of the original recordings, the ingenious arrangements also allow McGriff and his band panoramic stretches of space to explore.