Gene Ludwig comes from the romantic school of Hammond B3 organ players and, with more than 40 years at the job, he is part of the organ tradition. His playing is relaxed, laid-back, drenched with a mix of blues and soul. He understands that the organ quartet can be one of the most pleasurable listening experiences in jazz. With an extremely large range of tone colors and timbres, the organ quartet can musically express the full range of human emotions, from romantic and sultry, to highly charged beat excitement, to soul-drenched melancholy. This potential is fully realized by Ludwig and his quartet on the appropriately titled Soul Serenade. With J. Willis and Don Aliquo Jr. sharing tenor sax duties, Ken Karsh kicking with well-placed guitar licks, and Tom Wendt on drums, this album falls foursquare into the organ combo arena led by more well-known -- but not more able -- B3 artists Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, and Jimmy Smith. The play list was obviously constructed to bring out the best this group can offer. On "You Don't Know What Love Is," buttressed by the heartrending tenor sax of Aliquo, the quartet pulls out every ounce of feeling from this tune. In contrast, matters get moving at a swinging pace on "Freddie the Freeloader." Karsh's guitar gets full opportunity to explore the extemporizing possibilities of this Miles Davis classic. The title tune "Soul Serenade" is the organ counterpart of Gloria Lynne's ardent vocal version of 1965, making it a highlight of the album. Willis' slightly honking sax gives this cut an authentic R&B flavor. Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night" is the vehicle for Aliquo to brandish his dexterity at running through chord changes. "Duff's Blues" is pure swing, with Tom Wendt's drums getting plenty of attention. Some of the younger Hammond B3 organ practitioners on today's scene would do well to listen to this album to hear how the instrument can sound with its edges rounded a bit. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan