Jazz organist Jimmy McGriff demonstrates on "The Groover" that no musician has a monopoly on the blues. Certainly not these blues -- the late-night, after-hours kind that once routinely spilled from tired jukeboxes at closing time.
With fellow jazz organists Richard "Groove" Holmes and Jimmy Smith, McGriff has been riding the crest of a small but encouraging resurgence of jazz organ popularity. Now his arrangements are less fashionable as he returns to the basics, the timeless "groove" of uncluttered construction and uncompromised expression.
For proof, it's best to start at the end of "The Groover" and work backwards. On "This One's for Ray," a jam dedicated to Ray Charles, McGriff alternates between organ and acoustic piano, and quickly succeeds in capturing the soul of Charles' music. McGriff's treatment of the Cannonball Adderley hit, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," may not possess the cumulative power of the original version, but it's robustly spry. And Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," a sparkling showcase for alto saxophonist Arnold Sterling's clear tone and harmonic agility, is enhanced by Ray Mantilla's Latin percussion.
If side one is less impressive, it's only because a tenor sax would have carried more weight on Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train" and Tiny Bradshaw's "Soft." Yet even on these cuts, "The Groover" lives up to its title and a tradition well worth renewing. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM JIMMY McGRIFF -- The Groover (Jazz America Marketing JAM009). THE SHOW JIMMY McGRIFF, Friday and Saturday at 10 and midnight at One Step Down.