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Jack McDuff: Live at Parnell’s (Soul Bank)

A review of the live album with remastered audio

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Jack McDuff: Live at Parnell’s (Soul Bank)
The cover of Live at Parnell’s by Jack McDuff

Every notable jazz reissue has an intriguing backstory, right? Live at Parnell’s, documenting a week of bruising performances by late B-3 organ master Brother Jack McDuff 40 years ago at the titular Seattle nightclub, got its start when Soul Bank label head Greg Boraman came across a jazz organ website run by Scott Hawthorn with MP3s of those shows. The source cassettes, affected by degradation and flutter, also reflected an onstage glitch: There was a rip in the bass woofer of McDuff’s Leslie speaker, resulting in occasional buzzing sounds. Using AI-based technology, engineers remastered the audio for CD, digital, and vinyl formats.

The result, if not exactly history-making, offers an intimate portrait of an artist at full strength, leading guitarist Henry Johnson, saxophonist Danny Wollinski, and drummer Garrick King on a set of music that’s as varied as it is intense. The tunes reflect the range of McDuff’s repertoire. The blues pieces here are among the 15-track collection’s fiercest, with McDuff, Johnson, and Wollinski turning in blistering solos on “Another Real Goodun’,” “Walkin’ the Dog,” and closer “Blues 1 & 8.” Jazz standards are here too: The guitarist and saxophonist harmonize on the theme of “Blues in the Night,” a laidback “Satin Doll” is capped with some creatively used solo space for drummer King, and “A Night in Tunisia” gets a tricky, heavily syncopated intro.

The group also offers takes on “Killer Joe,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and “Lover Man.” McDuff’s “Fly Away,” clocking in at more than 14 minutes, is a highlight; a wash of sustained gospel-injected chords lead into multicolor riffs, a jaunty melody, and a series of air-it-out solos, with the leader throwing in a quick quote of “Summertime.” Soul jazz lives.

Learn more about Live at Parnell’s on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. Sharkskin, the second album from his long-running band, Acme Jazz Garage, has aired on radio stations across the U.S.