Jack McDuff

Hot Barbeque/Brother Jack McDuff Live!

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The two Jack McDuff albums compiled here by Ace's BGP imprint feature Brother Jack McDuff in one of his hard-swinging primes with a terrific band, which is the same one on both records. Assembled aesthetically rather than chronologically, the first date here was issued in 1966 as Prestige 7422. It's a studio offering that features the organist in the context of mostly original material, backed by his longstanding drummer Joe Dukes, saxophonist Red Holloway, and a young jazz guitarist named George Benson before he signed his first solo deal with Columbia. Of the McDuff tunes, the highlights include the silly yet grooving soul blues of the title track, the fingerpopping stroll of "601½ No. Poplar" -- an excellent showcase for Benson -- and the hard-bop closer "The Three Day Thang." The slow reading of "Cry Me a River" is hipper than most versions, to boot. The latter recording, cut in 1965, is a club gig with the same group. This is gritty and raw, but tight. Benson is more of a comping presence here, with Holloway matching McDuff in solo time. With the exception of a workmanlike reading of the show tune "It Ain't Necessarily So," the rest of this cooks. Highlights here include the nasty Holloway solo in "Rock Candy," the down-home, soul-gospel groove in "Sanctified Samba," and the absolutely ripping bop in "Undecided." Another treat is the cover of "Whistle While You Work" with Holloway on flute. He and McDuff deal out some sprightly but meaty improv. Dukes has always been an under-recognized drummer. If there is a star on either -- or both -- of these dates, it's him. His funky breaks, unerring pulse, and dancing sense of swing are unequaled in this format. This two-fer is certainly to be recommended for soul-jazz and organ fans.

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