Five Essential Organ-Guitar Albums

Dynamic duos

Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
Joey DeFrancesco at Redding's in Atlantic City
Tony Williams, Larry Young & Jack Bruce, 1970

JIMMY SMITH

Groovin’ at Smalls’ Paradise (Volumes 1 & 2)

(Blue Note, 1957)

This 1957 live date features Smith’s trio with guitarist Eddie McFadden and drummer Donald Bailey, but the draw is hearing the legendary organist stretch out in a live setting at the height of his early powers. The set alternates between soulful ballads that unfold at a lush, leisurely pace and boppish showcases for Smith’s lightning-fast prowess on B-3.

GRANT GREEN

Talkin’ About! (Blue Note, 1964)

Explicitly name-dropping John Coltrane on the title track, organist Larry Young’s “Talkin’ About J.C.,” this release by guitarist Grant Green’s trio finds both Young and the leader making a transition from soul-jazz to modal experimentation inspired by Trane’s pioneering sound. It doesn’t hurt that the trio is rounded out by Elvin Jones on drums.

JIMMY SMITH & WES MONTGOMERY

Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo (Verve, 1966)

Though the trio is augmented by Oliver Nelson’s big-band arrangements on half of the tunes, Nelson is savvy enough to front-load his charts with heavy horn blasts and then clear the way for the two stars to do their thing. The first of two albums culled from the single meeting of these two giants, Dynamic Duo finds organist Smith and guitarist Montgomery driving and challenging one another, resulting in one of the most influential recordings in the organ-jazz canon.

THE TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME

Emergency! (Verve, 1969)

The fact that the first release by drummer Tony Williams’ landmark band is far more often cited in histories of jazz-rock fusion than in regard to the lineage of the organ trio is a testament to its radical departure from tradition. The explosive date features organist Larry Young edging into psychedelia and guitarist John McLaughlin at his heaviest, melding raw power with sophisticated intellect.

PAT MARTINO

Live at Yoshi’s (Blue Note, 2001)

Two modern legends of Philly organ jazz come together, as guitarist Martino welcomes organist Joey DeFrancesco to the stage of the Oakland club for a scintillating set of funk and blues that spotlights the duo’s jaw-dropping virtuosity. The Grammy-nominated disc is anchored by drummer Billy Hart, who provides a wide-ranging palette of colors to drive this contemporary dynamic duo

Shaun Brady

Shaun Brady is a Philadelphia-based journalist who covers jazz along with an eclectic array of arts, culture, and travel. Brady contributes regularly to the Philadelphia Inquirer and JazzTimes and Jazziz magazines, with subjects ranging from legendary artists to underground experimentalists. His byline has appeared in DownBeat, Metro, NPR Music, and The A.V. Club, among other outlets. He studied filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago and continues to spend too much time in the dark.