Jimmy McGriff with Hank Crawford – live at The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco – July 29, 1994 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection-
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One of the legendary masters of the Hammond B-3 Jimmy McGriff with legendary alto Hank Crawford in two sets, recorded at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on July 29, 1994.
The collaboration between McGriff and Crawford got started in 1986 and it produced several notable albums during the late 1980s.
Unlike Jimmy Smith, who had launched his career at jazz clubs like New York’s Cafe Bohemia and at the Newport Jazz Festival, McGriff was already an organist veering toward the Hammond’s increasingly popular R&B incarnation. It was not coincidental that the legendary Stax Records house rhythm section, organist Booker T and the MGs, also released a Hammond version of I Got a Woman in 1962.
McGriff recorded throughout the 1960s, with his materials broadening to include Count Basie swing hits – pianist Basie, occasionally an organist himself, was also an early McGriff influence – movie themes and pop covers. He toured extensively, moved to New Jersey and opened a supper club, the Golden Slipper, where he recorded his 1971 live album The Black Pearl.
In 1968 McGriff came close to another success with The Worm, an engaging piece of jazz-funk featuring the heated trumpet sound of Blue Mitchell, and he performed with a big band on the following year’s Electric Funk. He also became an attraction in the big band led by swing drummer Buddy Rich.
The organist briefly retired in 1972, but with the rise of disco, he had discovered another dance form that could benefit from his Hammond treatment. The albums Stump Juice (1975), Red Beans (1976) and Outside Looking In (1978) represent this shift, and though the materials are often thin, the sessions are lifted by McGriff’s coolly grooving lines and stalking-cat deliberation.
When he moved to the Milestone label in the 1980s, McGriff mingled more jazz with his soul sound, playing alongside Hank Crawford and “Fathead” Newman, who had also been Ray Charles’s sideman.
Hank Crawford was an American R&B, hard bop, jazz-funk, soul jazz alto saxophonist, arranger and songwriter. Crawford was musical director for Ray Charles before embarking on a solo career releasing many well-regarded albums on Atlantic, CTI and Milestone.
In 1958, Crawford went to college at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at TSU, he majored in music studying theory and composition, as well as playing alto and baritone saxophone in the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians. He also led his own rock ‘n’ roll quartet, “Little Hank and the Rhythm Kings”. His bandmates all thought he looked and sounded just like Hank O’Day, a legendary local saxophonist, which earned him the nickname “Hank”. This is when Crawford met Ray Charles, who hired Crawford originally as a baritone saxophonist. Crawford switched to alto in 1959 and remained with Charles’ band—becoming its musical director until 1963.
When Crawford left Ray Charles in 1963 to form his own septet, he had already established himself with several albums for Atlantic Records. From 1960 until 1970, he recorded twelve LPs for the label, many while balancing his earlier duties as Ray’s director. He released such pre-crossover hits as “Misty”, “The Peeper”, “Whispering Grass”, and “Shake-A-Plenty”.
He also has done musical arrangement for Etta James, Lou Rawls, and others. Much of his career has been in R&B, but in the 1970s he had several successful jazz albums, with I Hear a Symphony reaching 11 on Billboard’s Jazz albums list and 159 for Pop albums.
David Sanborn cites Crawford as being one of his primary influences. Crawford is recognized by saxophonists as having a particularly unique and pleasing sound. In 1981, he featured, with fellow horn players Ronnie Cuber and David Newman, on B.B. King’s There Must Be a Better World Somewhere.
In 1983 he moved to Milestone Records as a premier arranger, soloist, and composer, writing for small bands including guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Jimmy McGriff, and Dr. John. In 1986, Crawford began working with McGriff. They recorded five co-leader dates for Milestone Records: Soul Survivors, Steppin’ Up, On the Blue Side, Road Tested, and Crunch Time, as well as two dates for Telarc Records: Right Turn on Blue and Blues Groove. The two toured together extensively.
The new century found Crawford shifting gears and going for a more mainstream jazz set in his 2000 release The World of Hank Crawford. Though the songs are compositions from jazz masters such as Duke Ellington and Tadd Dameron, he delivers in that sanctified church sound that is his trademark. Followed by The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff (2001).
Dial yourself back to 1994 – hit the play button and relax.