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Jimmy McGriff: McGriff Avenue

Jimmy McGriff lays down a homecoming groove. A recording artist for 43 years, his organ playing has always proved a trustworthy and substantive source of blues-funk-soul-roots jazz. While his albums are much alike in terms of material and, to a certain extent, instrumentation, they are also consistently likeable, warm, and affirmative.

McGriff Avenue, produced by the ever-dependable Bob Porter, features saxophonists Bill Easley, Gordon Beadle and Ronnie Cuber, guitarist Rodney Jones and/or Melvin Sparks-Hassan, bassist Wilbur Bascomb and drummer Bernard Purdie or Don Williams. The CD leads off with McGriff’s “All About My Girl,” a tune that became an R&B hit for the organist in the early ’60s, and “The Worm,” another McGriff hit original from the ’60s, appears later in the lineup.

McGriff Avenue also includes three originals by Jones, who arranged most of the set. His minor key “The Answer Is the Blues” swings smoothly and suggests something Quincy Jones might write for the Count Basie band. Beadle, on loan from blues guitarist Duke Robillard’s band and new to the McGriff company, out-boogaloos the entire cast on the organist and Cuber’s “The Great Unknown” with a whopping, hall-of-fame effort on tenor. To conclude the album, McGriff takes “America, the Beautiful” (which he has recorded previously with alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, his former co-leader) to church.

The organist, an economical player, comes from the slow-burn school. Forget theatrics and fireworks-he’s the type who paces his performances for a steady payoff of good grooves and soulful messages. Everyone delivers heartfelt solos throughout the album and, as always, the dance floor remains open during the set.

Originally Published