The Magnificent Goldberg

Pre-Smith organists

17 posts in this topic

I’ve been listening to Tyrone Parsons this evening and he has provoked a few thoughts. Tyrone only made two recordings; his own album “Organ-eyes” for Imperial in 1963 and he provided the backing on a few tracks of “This is Ernie Andrews” for Dot in 1966. That’s it. So there’s this new organist who emerges in the mid-sixties and he doesn’t want anything to do with all this “new-fangled” Jimmy Smith stuff; his vision is from Wild Bill Davis. You gotta admire the guy’s guts!

OK, I’ve a lot of records by pre-Jimmy-Smith-style organists, not just Tyrone: Wild Bill; Bill Doggett; Milt Buckner; Hank Marr; Sir Charles Thompson; and so on. These guys don’t often get mentioned, but they’re good; great even, some of them.

You can pick out a pre-Smith style easy enough. But what I’d like to know, from some of you organists out there is, what were these guys doing that Jimmy Smith didn’t? In other words, I’m not asking what was unique about Smith but what was unique about his predecessors.

Can someone help me on this?

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve been listening to Tyrone Parsons this evening and he has provoked a few thoughts. Tyrone only made two recordings; his own album “Organ-eyes” for Imperial in 1963 and he provided the backing on a few tracks of “This is Ernie Andrews” for Dot in 1966. That’s it. So there’s this new organist who emerges in the mid-sixties and he doesn’t want anything to do with all this “new-fangled” Jimmy Smith stuff; his vision is from Wild Bill Davis. You gotta admire the guy’s guts!

OK, I’ve a lot of records by pre-Jimmy-Smith-style organists, not just Tyrone: Wild Bill; Bill Doggett; Milt Buckner; Hank Marr; Sir Charles Thompson; and so on. These guys don’t often get mentioned, but they’re good; great even, some of them.

You can pick out a pre-Smith style easy enough. But what I’d like to know, from some of you organists out there is, what were these guys doing that Jimmy Smith didn’t? In other words, I’m not asking what was unique about Smith but what was unique about his predecessors.

Can someone help me on this?

MG

It's kind of like the difference between what was happening on alto before Charlie Parker. And it's not to say that Johnny Hodges isn't a musical giant in his own right. It's just that after Jimmy Smith hit, the older guys either had to adapt to that style (like Johnny Hammond Smith did quite successfully)...or they sounded "dated." This happens all the time in music. Some adapt, some don't. What's great about the pre-Jimmy Smith guys is that they treated the organ like a big band. It is a huge sound, and speaking from my viewpoint, one that takes SO much time to learn, that it's often abandon almost completely by most every organist after Jimmy. It's difficult as hell, and it's modern-day usefullness is limited. That said, guys like Milt Buckner, ect. should be more widely known as their work is incredibley difficult. Without guys like Wild Bill Davis there would be no Jimmy Smith.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's kind of like the difference between what was happening on alto before Charlie Parker. And it's not to say that Johnny Hodges isn't a musical giant in his own right. It's just that after Jimmy Smith hit, the older guys either had to adapt to that style (like Johnny Hammond Smith did quite successfully)...or they sounded "dated." This happens all the time in music. Some adapt, some don't. What's great about the pre-Jimmy Smith guys is that they treated the organ like a big band. It is a huge sound, and speaking from my viewpoint, one that takes SO much time to learn, that it's often abandon almost completely by most every organist after Jimmy. It's difficult as hell, and it's modern-day usefullness is limited. That said, guys like Milt Buckner, ect. should be more widely known as their work is incredibley difficult. Without guys like Wild Bill Davis there would be no Jimmy Smith.

Thanks Soul Stream

So it isn't, as I thought it might be, simply a matter of using different stops and using chords more (and after all, Don Patterson and Jimmy Smith both used chords a lot on ballads). What you seem to be saying is that these guys had a different concept of how you played the organ. Not, I suspect, a different concept of how you played jazz, because they were all of the same generation as the beboppers. And if you listen to Wild Bill playing "Jive samba", you know he was capable of doing the Hard Bop thing when he wanted to.

Am I following you right?

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's kind of like the difference between what was happening on alto before Charlie Parker. And it's not to say that Johnny Hodges isn't a musical giant in his own right. It's just that after Jimmy Smith hit, the older guys either had to adapt to that style (like Johnny Hammond Smith did quite successfully)...or they sounded "dated." This happens all the time in music. Some adapt, some don't. What's great about the pre-Jimmy Smith guys is that they treated the organ like a big band. It is a huge sound, and speaking from my viewpoint, one that takes SO much time to learn, that it's often abandon almost completely by most every organist after Jimmy. It's difficult as hell, and it's modern-day usefullness is limited. That said, guys like Milt Buckner, ect. should be more widely known as their work is incredibley difficult. Without guys like Wild Bill Davis there would be no Jimmy Smith.

Thanks Soul Stream

So it isn't, as I thought it might be, simply a matter of using different stops and using chords more (and after all, Don Patterson and Jimmy Smith both used chords a lot on ballads). What you seem to be saying is that these guys had a different concept of how you played the organ. Not, I suspect, a different concept of how you played jazz, because they were all of the same generation as the beboppers. And if you listen to Wild Bill playing "Jive samba", you know he was capable of doing the Hard Bop thing when he wanted to.

Am I following you right?

MG

I don't know if I meant it to come across as that simplistic....'cause it's not so clean cut. There are many things that held over from the Wild Bill Davis-era. BALLADS are a GREAT example. Jimmy Smith used the same style early on as some of his early influences. The ballad style lived on through the Pattersons, Lonnie Smiths, ect....and is healthy today with guys like Joey Defrancesco.

Jimmy Smith didn't invent jazz organ. I'd say Wild Bill Davis did. Style has changed, but the left hand bass, pedal use, block chords...the INTENSITY....that was all started with Wild Bill to my knowledge. (o.k...we can go back futher to Fats Waller, ect..but that's really predating the Smith era)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "swing" is different. You should hear that. SS's big band analogy is on the money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i used to, but now i dont buy into the whole "pre jimmy organ" dealie 1 bit. so jimmy screwed w/ the drawbars and started playing faster, so what. he could never be as good as shirley scott was. now SHE is the quinetessential bop organist. she might not have balls, but her playing sure does. when she pulls all the stops out and gets all 'freaky freaky' with eddie lockjaw, nothing can top it (big john notwithstanding). Jimmy's earliest blue notes copy the Shirely style, then after his classic period he compeletly sold out and started recording orchestra albums and really bad vocal/blues albums. he retured to greatness in the 70s with "root down" a classic funk album, then made disco albums which i bet are pretty cool, although i sold the one i owned years ago (wish i hadnt). it wasnt even on a hammond. then in the 90s and 00's jimmy lost his mind and went compeletly nuts. I swear to god i think i remember one time he pulled his pants down on stage. i am not positive on that but it is a distinct possibiliy, ill have to re-check up on that w/ people i went to the show with. but nonetheless he compeletly lost his mind. why he still toured i dunno, must of been for the money- thats too bad

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "swing" is different. You should hear that. SS's big band analogy is on the money.

Yeah, I can hear that plainly. Seemed to me that was just the continuation of the tradition being developed after the war by the likes of Ammons, Jacquet, Cobb, Quebec and many other Soul Jazz musicians. WBD was part of that tradition. In other words, it wasn't a specific organ thing. Which is what I thought I was looking for.

But it implies that Smith, on the other hand, wasn't originally part of the Soul Jazz tradition but part of the Bebop tradition, though he later moved solidly into Soul Jazz, which was changing anyway under pressure from Scott/Davis and McDuff/Jackson. And if that's right, it means that the real question isn't pre- or post-Smith, but pre-Scott, as chewy suggested.

Chewy, what do you reckon are the key Scott/Davis recordings?

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

bill doggett was also a genius. he as albums of bossas, albums w/ strings, albums of just organ ballads, and of course rockin r and b.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

u know, those cookbook vol. 1 and things like that. those are the best. but anything with shirley in the picture was superb.

I have the Cookbooks and most of what Scott/Davis did for Prestige, but that stuff is from 1958 (and onwards), as are also their Roost recordings, which I have. They recorded together for King; I think from 1955-57. Have you heard any of those?

Also agree about Doggett. Don't see why there couldn't be a nice big Mosaic box of his King material. If Mosaic can do Milburn and T-Bone, why not Doggett?

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

J.S. Bach was well-respected on the instrument in his day, as both player and composer, dun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

J.S. Bach was well-respected on the instrument in his day, as both player and composer, dun.

CPE Bach?

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

before i retired from live performance, dun, i was often referred to as The Sepia Bach.

Better than "Sepia Sinatra" or even "The black Baudelaire".

(what would juvenal do?)

Dame as the rest of us - grow old.

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

before i retired from live performance, dun, i was often referred to as The Sepia Bach.

Better than "Sepia Sinatra" or even "The black Baudelaire".

MG

Shouldn't it be "Black Bach," just for the sake of the alliteration?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.