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Richard “Groove” Holmes: On Basie’s Bandstand

These previously unissued performances from Count Basie’s Lounge in Harlem should be required listening for all jazz organists. The year was 1966, and Holmes’ bouncy version of “Misty,” recorded a year earlier, was a jukebox hit. But here, the tempos step up a notch, with the organist’s trio in dazzling, show-stopping form. The group not only handles the hot tempos without a stumble, it maintains a sense of momentum throughout each performance, too.

Things take off on “Indiana,” with Holmes’ single lines harmonically leading from phrase to phrase and gathering steam all the way. Guitarist Gene Edwards takes over, and the fleetness and drive continue unabated. Drummer George Randall catches the guitar accents and later trades licks with Holmes before a long turnaround ending. Preach on, brother!

A faster than usual “Moanin'” and “When I Grow Too Old to Dream,” in a Basie-like 4/4 medium tempo (not the written 3/4), are up next. Perfect. Then comes Coleman Hawkins’ “Rifftide” (another potboiler) followed by “This Here,” “Nica’s Dream” and a short, deliciously rolling “Night Train.” This is healing music.

All told, you know this was a regularly working group because of the well-placed ensemble accents, climactic sense of performance and focused sense of rhythm. Randall’s backbeat slaps and pops never simply mark time, they always uplift the proceedings. Likewise, Edwards’ comping and soloing always sound inspired. And Holmes, who died in 1991, more than lived up to his nickname.

Originally Published