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Gene Ludwig: Love Notes of Cole Porter

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Like so many other capable jazz musicians, Gene Ludwig made his name regionally but never broke out on a wider basis. A skilled Hammond organist of the Jimmy Smith school, Ludwig was primarily known around Pittsburgh, where he held court at local clubs for much of his half-century in the business. Ludwig’s recording output was relatively sparse: He cut a handful of albums as a leader and appeared on sessions with saxophonist Sonny Stitt and others, but at the time of his 2010 death at age 72, Ludwig was still a relative unknown outside of his domain.

His final project, Love Notes of Cole Porter, serves handily as both a fitting epitaph and belated introduction. It’s difficult to go wrong with a repertoire as rich as this, and Ludwig’s spirited interpretations, while perhaps not bringing anything new to songs as ubiquitous as “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine” and “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” are performed with verve and soul. Ludwig’s Hammond C3 (not B3) is given a workout on the swinging opener, “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” stretches toward gospel on “Why Can’t You Behave?” and conjures a particularly funky pipe organ for “Rosalie.” Guitarist Mark Strickland and tenor saxophonist Lou Stellute (who sits out on half the tunes) make for a fine support team, and a pair of alternating drummers, Thomas Wendt and Billy Kuhn, provides adequate muscle.

Originally Published