Keep That Groove Going
The under-recognized B-3 veteran Gene Ludwig gets a fine showcase on Keep That Groove Going! (Milestone MCD-9319-2; 55:26). The headliners, however, are two blustery septuagenarian tenor saxophonists, Plas Johnson and Red Holloway, and this spirited session, produced by Bob Porter, also features stellar sidemen in drummer Kenny Washington and guitarist Melvin Sparks. Ludwig distinguishes himself as an old-school burner on the uptempo title track and Holloway's waltz-time blues "Bretheren!" He provides the harmonic glue on a jumping rendition of Coleman Hawkins' "Stuffy," comping slyly behind the two-tenor tandem before breaking out for a stirring solo of his own, and he lays a velvety cushion behind Holloway's robust tenor on a rhapsodic reading of the ballad "Serenade in Blue" before launching into his most dynamic solo on the recording. A cover of Arnett Cobb's signature piece, "Go Red Go," has Ludwig grooving steadily behind the raucous call-and-response of the two honkin' kindred spirits. And if the blues is a proving ground then Ludwig passes with flying colors on Johnson's slow moving "Pass the Gravy." The organist provides his most dramatic accompaniment on the melancholy minor-key ballad "Cry Me a River," which features a majestic, vocal-oriented reading on tenor by Johnson. And he blithely swings the two tenormen home on their casual, conversational reading of "Dream a Little Dream of Me." It's been nearly 40 years since Gene Ludwig recorded some Sonny Stitt sides for Prestige. Like Reuben Wilson, he continues to do his thing year in and year out without much fanfare. With his fine showing on this superb recording Ludwig should gain the recognition that has eluded him for a long time.