Before Jimmy Smith reinvented the organ -- before the explosion of soul-jazz in the late '50s and early '60s -- there were the honkers: big-toned, extroverted, hard-blowing swing/R&B tenor men who believed that instrumental jazz had a right to groove. It is no coincidence that Willis "Gator" Jackson, Wild Bill Moore, Jimmy Forrest, Arnett Cobb, and other honkers of the late '40s and early '50s went on to play soul-jazz in the '60s; honker music, like soul-jazz, swung relentlessly and did so in a very accessible, straightforward, groove-oriented fashion. Assembled in 2002, Honkers & Bar Walkers, Vol. 3 picks up where its two predecessors left off and spotlights some more recordings from the honker era. Not all of the 22 tracks on this compilation are instrumentals; several are examples of vocal-oriented jump blues. Nonetheless, swing-based instrumentals dominate this 64-minute CD, and ultimately, the spotlight belongs to tenor sax honkers like Eddie Chamblee, Jim Conley, and the abovementioned Wild Bill Moore. Spanning 1949-1954, these recordings came at a time when Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and other bebop heavyweights were pointing jazz in a more intellectual, less groove-oriented direction. But the honkers didn't want to be abstract and ultra-complex; their roots were Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford, and Louis Jordan, and they didn't believe that jazz was strictly for intellectuals in Sweden. Honkers valued accessibility, which is why instrumentals like Conley's "The Cat Creeps," Moore's "Dynaflow," and Chamblee's arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" are as straightforward and uncomplicated as they are. Honkers -- like Basie, Lunceford, and Hampton back in the '30s -- saw no reason why instrumental jazz couldn't be party music. Those who admired Delmark's two previous Honkers & Bar Walkers collections will be equally appreciative of Vol. 3.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson