Milt Buckner's Hammond organ sound is quite different than others who followed in his footsteps. His choppy two-hand chord approach, thorny and biting sound, and his regular usage of a bass player identified him as a raw industrialist, coming from the Midwest hearths of St. Louis and Detroit. Buckner has largely been ignored as a pioneer of the organ in the '50s, so this reissue of his recordings for the Capitol label -- Rockin' with Milt, Rockin' Hammond, and Send Me Softly, plus five tracks from 7" EPs -- should reinforce why he was an important purveyor of the primordial soul-jazz movement. Buckner came out of the swing era as a pianist and sometimes cocktail lounge performer who was able to straddle the line between popular sounds of the day and more riveting and substantive jazz. The title Rockin' with Milt is apropos, as these tunes establish the rhythm & blues based beat that Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, and Chuck Berry turned into the seminal rock & roll that took over popular and dancehall music. The saxophonists who work with Buckner on these individual sessions are interesting picks, considering where their careers eventually landed. Danny Turner was a New York based alto and tenor saxophonist and a favorite of Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie, ex-Basie sax section stalwart Earle Warren's vibrato flavored alto was favorably compared to Earl Bostic, while tenor saxophone honker "Sam "The Man" Taylor" was well known in blues circles, also accompanying Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, and Ray Charles, but could swing with the best. Tracks from the Rockin' with Milt sessions feature bassist Wendell Marshall and Duke Ellington drummer Sam Woodyard, including four Buckner originals like the R&B based "Movin' with Mitch," the fleet "Slaughter on 125th Street," and the cute unison organ/sax tune "Little Miss Maudlin." Boppers like the speedy "Bernie's Tune" and the easygoing "Robbins Nest" are hardcore classics. Overdubbing piano and organ, Buckner uses only guitarists and bass/drums rhythm mates for the stomping "Hey Now, Zorina!," and originals like the keyboards calling back and forth to each other on "Count's Basement," the shuffling "Wild Scene" and well after midnight "Mighty Low." Warren enters with pronounced, bent, flatted notes on Ahmad Jamal's "Night Mist" and the lovely, romantic "Dinner Date." Sam "The Man" Taylor and plucky guitarist Skeeter Best drench champagne and chocolate respectively over the bluesy melodies of "Good Time Express" and the jive "Second Section." The sessions from the Send Me Softly LP are distinctly more cocktail or martini induced than ale or stout, with some light calypso, cha cha, nonchalant background music, and themes of regret or loneliness. "All or Nothing at All" is a mysterious and unique Latin treatment of this standard, while Warren's somber reading of "Lullaby of the Leaves" will leave you breathless. "Our Engagement Day" is a sentimental theme that nuptials should discover. Master bassist Milt Hinton is all over the second CD, and provides a good study in supportive rhythm and swing for those learning the idiom. Aside from the contrasts of tinkling piano as opposed to stabbing organ chords on "One O'Clock Jump," or the slow and slinky "Blue & Sentimental," Buckner is regular and predictable for those who know his work. If you are unfamiliar with Buckner's style, surprises abound, especially considering how his Hammond sound would preclude the more legato Wurlitzer or Farfisa sonic palate that was too slow for jazz improvisation in the '60s. As there are too few Milt Buckner recordings in contemporary catalogs, this is as close to his essential period as is available.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2