Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff didn't co-lead a studio date until 1986, when Bob Porter (one of the top producers in the soul-jazz field) produced their Soul Survivors album for Milestone. But alto saxman Crawford and organist McGriff should have recorded together long before that because they have so much in common. Both are soul-jazz/hard bop heavyweights, and both thrive on jazz that is funky, earthy, blues-drenched, and quite accessible; as a rule, blues and R&B lovers who don't care for the more abstract, cerebral styles of jazz have no problem getting into Crawford or McGriff. And they will have no problem getting into this fine collection, which offers a 75-minute sample of material that the veteran improvisers recorded as co-leaders from 1986-1998. Everything on The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff was produced by Porter, who has produced countless soul-jazz sessions over the years. So not surprisingly, this 2001 release is full of state-of-the-art soul-jazz. Crawford and McGriff enjoy a strong rapport whether they are getting into hard-swinging up-tempo fare on "One Mint Julep" (a major hit for Ray Charles in 1961) and Lester Young's "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid" or lyrical ballad playing on "Second Time Around" and "Because of You." None of the material is groundbreaking; in the '80s and '90s, Crawford and McGriff excelled by sticking with the type of down-home stuff they had been embracing since the '50s. The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff isn't difficult, ultra-intellectual jazz that will scare away R&B, rock, and pop fans -- this is grits-and-gravy music, and accessibility is the rule on these inspired Crawford/McGriff encounters.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson