This album sticks to first principles: groove and feeling. Organist Clarke, a fixture in Harlem clubs for 30 years, presents a rousing album for dancing and feeding the soul. Clarke, besides performing at Smoke, where this session was recorded, and other Harlem nightspots, hosts a regular Sunday night jam at American Legion Post 138. All told, he's an admirable example of community involvement even as this album exemplifies an earlier time when jazz, blues and R&B mingled freely in Harlem rooms.
The album kicks off with "Harlem Groove," a charging blues that features the One for All horn section (tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi and trombonist Steve Davis), guest guitarist Rodney Jones and Harlem Groove Band regulars David Lee Jones (alto saxophone) and Roger Coles (drums). This is a hot arrangement that elicits passionate solos from all hands. The same crew plays "More Today Than Yesterday" and, with Peter Bernstein substituting for guitarist Jones, "I Can't Get Started." (Fine, bold trumpet variations on the latter by Rotondi.) The remainder of the album more or less features the Harlem Groove Band, except "Moonlight in Vermont," a bluesy trio cut with Clarke, Coles and guitarist David O'Rourke.
In addition to Clarke, alto saxophonist Jones and drummer Coles, the Harlem Groove Band includes trumpeter Gerald Brazel and guitarist Joe Friedman. Jones shines throughout the session with a searing sound, harmonic embellishments and plenty of blues inflections. He is spotlighted on "Misty." On each track, Clarke proves an ideal accompanist (with walking bass lines and big-bandlike chordal jabs or sustain) as well as a constructive soloist. If you go to Harlem, you must experience this band.