Organist Bill Doggett is something of a legend in R&B circles. In the '40s he was associated with Lucky Millinder, the Ink Spots and Louis Jordon, but he gained wider recognition in the '50s while leading his own combo -- recording, among other hits, the million-seller "Honky Tonk." Last night at Mr. Y's, Doggett amiably recalled the sound that once brought him to the top of the charts.
After a false start caused by equipment problems, Doggett's quartet opened with an expansive, up-tempo version of "Green Dolphin Street," featuring tenor saxophonist Bubba Brooks. The saxophone has always been at the heart of Doggett's sound, and Brooks' tone, though not always as muscular as it might have been, was forceful enough to push Doggett into several swelling, pulsating choruses. The mood softened with Brooks' treatment of "Body and Soul," but picked up again with the familiar shuffling beat of "Honky Tonk." More satisfying, though, were the dark, heartfelt blues the quartet played before and after local singer Toni Williams joined them. On "Teach Me Tonight," for example, Williams' striking delivery bore more than a passing resemblance to Dinah Washington's sassy and sensuous style.
The Doggett Quartet and Toni Williams return for three shows tonight and tomorrow night.