Wednesday, May 28, 2008

R.I.P.: Jimmy McGriff

Born on April 3, 1936 in Philadelphia, USA
Died on May 24, 2008 in New Jersey, USA

One of my personal favorite Hammond players (and, surely, one of the world's best organists in the jazz history), Jimmy McGriff passed away.
Two obituaries (one in German and the other from the NY Times) follow.
I'll pay my tribute to him by listening to my big archive of McGriff's albums, which includes rare dates with Fats Theus and the complete collection of his sessions that Bob Porter produced for Milestone. Many of them paired Jimmy with Hank Crawford on such albums as "Soul Survivors", recorded at the Van Gelder Studio in 1986 featuring George Benson (on a soulful take of Tony Bennett's hit "Because of You"), Mel Lewis (on "Frim Fram Sauce"), Bernard Purdie (groovin' like no one else on Neal Hefti's "After Supper") and Jim Pittsburgh on "One Mint Julep".
It's also a joy to watch Jimmy McGriff performing on the all-star "Rhythmstick" session for Creed Taylor, filmed live at Van Gelder's in 1989 and released in 1990 on LaserDisc, VHS and CD by CTI, but not yet issued on DVD.
More obituaries: Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Independent.
Jimmy McGriff gestorben

Laurence Hammond war ein Tüftler. Sein Ziel war eine elektrische Orgel, endlich unabhängig vom Gebläse der Kirchenorgel, die sich mit künstlerischer Tonerzeugung möglichst umfangreich sollte einsetzen lassen. Anno 1934 stellte er das erste Exemplar seiner Hammondorgel vor und schon rund zwei Jahrzehnte später trat das Instrument seinen Siegeszug jenseits der Gotteshäuser und Gospelmessen durch die damals populäre Musik an.

Der Pionier des Ungetüms im Jazz war Jimmy Smith, sein Pendant auf der deutlich mehr durch Blues und Soul geprägten Seite Jimmy McGriff. Geboren am 3. April 1936 in Philadelphia, hatte er als Kind zunächst Klavier gelernt, später dann die verschiedensten Instrumente gelernt, spielte unter anderem Bass und begann schließlich im Anschluss auf seine Militärzeit 1956, sich für die Hammond Orgel zu interessieren. Dabei ging es mehr als um ein Hobby, McGriff studierte unter anderem an der Juilliard School und ging auch bei Meister Jimmy Smith selbst in die Lehre.

Der Erfolg ließ nicht lange auf sich warten. Bereits 1962 schaffte er den Sprung in die Top 20 der US- Hitparaden, mit seiner Hammond-Version von Ray Charles "I Got A Woman". Von da an ging es zügig voran, mit zahlreichen eigenen Aufnahmen und, trotz technischer Neuerungen, weiterhin an den Tasten der Hammond. Er bildete eine feste Band mit dem Saxofonisten Hank Crawford, wahlweise auch mit Kollege Illinois Jacquet, oder reiste in der Gruppe von Buddy Rich durch die Lande. Jimmy McGriff war einer der maßgeblichen und vielgesampleten Initiatoren des Hammond-Comebacks in den Neunzigern und starb am 24.Mai in New Jersey im Alter von 72 Jahren.
Jimmy McGriff, Jazz and Blues Organist, Dies at 72

Published: May 28, 2008

"Jimmy McGriff, who since the early 1960s was one of the most popular jazz and blues organists, died on Saturday in Voorhees, N.J. He was 72 and lived in Voorhees.

Like other jazz organists of his time, Mr. McGriff spent much of his career working in the clubs of the East Coast organ circuit, including the Golden Slipper in Newark, a club he owned in the early ’70s. He played jazz as dance music, whether it was music by Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles or James Brown. Over swing, shuffle and funk rhythms, he played in a focused blues language that built gospel-like intensity through his solos.

Mr. McGriff was born in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, which became a jazz organ mecca in the 1950s and ’60s. His father played piano, and Mr. McGriff learned it from an early age; he went on to play saxophone and bass before settling on the Hammond organ, which became a common instrument in small-group jazz instrument only in the mid-’50s, largely because of the example of another Philadelphian, Jimmy Smith.

During the Korean War, Mr. McGriff served as a military policeman; returning home, he spent more than two years on the Philadelphia police force. Encouraged by his friend Richard (Groove) Holmes, another Philadelphia organist, he took up the organ, playing around Philadelphia, sometimes with the tenor saxophonist Charles Earland, who himself switched over to the organ soon thereafter and became another one of that instrument’s great players.

His first hit, in 1961, was a 45-r.p.m. single of Ray Charles’s “I’ve Got a Woman,” a local jukebox success that was featured on the radio. It led to a full album for the Sue label; it also quickly led to another hit single, “All About My Girl.”

From the mid-’60s through the 1970s, his records were produced by Sonny Lester, on the Solid State, Blue Note and Groove Merchant labels; his own 1971 live album, “The Black Pearl,” as well as another with the blues singer Junior Parker, were recorded at his own club in Newark. He also played with Buddy Rich’s band for a stretch in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

In 1986 he started working regularly with the saxophonist Hank Crawford, making records and touring; he continued to record as a leader for the Milestone label and made his last recording in 2006, a live album done at the Manhattan jazz club Smoke. He stopped playing in 2007.

In addition to his wife, Margaret, Mr. McGriff is survived his mother, Beatrice, and brother, Henry, both of Philadelphia; his sisters, Jean Clark of Amherst, Va., and Beatrice Evans of Philadelphia; two children, Donald Kelly of Philadelphia and Holiday Hankerson of the Newark area; and five grandchildren. "

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