JazzTimes 10: Classic Organ Jazz Albums

What to hear when you need to get your Hammond on

10. Count Basie: The Swinging Count! (Clef, 1956 [recorded 1952])

The Swinging Count! isn’t strictly an organ album, and the first organ we hear on it (the opening “Extended Blues”) isn’t even played by the Count—Oscar Peterson stops in to lend a hand or two. But Basie (who was taught to play organ by Fats Waller, the maker of the world’s first jazz organ recordings) plays enough of it here to let us know what a Basie organ record would sound like. He even brings in his small band, featuring Lester Young soundalike Paul Quinichette (“Vice Prez”), to suggest the full panorama. Basie sounds like Basie on organ too, but with some fascinating context; his comp on “She’s Funny That Way,” for example, is as close to gospel as you’ll ever encounter outside of a church. The one-two combination of “Count’s Organ Blues” and “K.C. Organ Blues” deserves placement in the canon of the pianist/bandleader’s best work.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.