May 28, 2008

GROOVEDOG:

Jimmy McGriff, Jazz and Blues Organist, Dies at 72 (BEN RATLIFF, 5/28/08, NY Times)

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.”


Posted by Orrin Judd at May 28, 2008 6:31 PM
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