JazzTimes 10: Classic Organ Jazz Albums

What to hear when you need to get your Hammond on

5. Wild Bill Davis: Wild Bill Davis at Birdland (Epic, 1955)

Before the hard-bop era revolutionized the Hammond organ, Wild Bill Davis recognized its potential. An alum of the groundbreaking rhythm & blues band Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five, Davis preferred longer, scratchier tones on the organ—at least as a melody player. Otherwise he played it like a drum: He literally doubles the drummer on “Lullaby of Birdland.” In either case, Davis liked his playing to be lively and fun to the point of raucous, as on “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” and “Night Train,” and he swung the Hammond harder than any musician before or since—Jimmy Smith included. Incidentally, that’s also Davis on the jovial vocals, to which he applies the same kind of percussive force as he does on the keys (dig “Chicken Gumbo”).


Originally Published

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.