Various Artists: Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today?

Various Artists
Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today?
Label M

This latest compilation from Joel Dorn and Label M is a collection of organ jazz mostly from the early 1960s. It is not, to my ears, as successful as the label’s earlier tribute to the flute in jazz, but it makes a perfectly pleasant accompaniment to your workday. Or play. One strength of the album as a collection is in it’s sequencing, a rarely commented on part of album packaging. The idea here is to start slow, build to a climax, and then cool down, just like…ahem…just like…well, let me put it this way: There’s a painting of a sexy nurse in heels, stockings and a lace thong on the cover; what do you think they’re suggesting for an activity to accompany listening?

Part of the problem is that some of the tracks are as much if not more tenor sax showcases than B-3 organ. Well, that’s a not a problem, exactly — the organ-tenor duet was an integral part of the sound, after all — but it does give one pause on an album named after the latter instrument.

Tenor players Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt conduct a conversation in stereo, one to a channel, on “You Talk That Talk” as Leon Spencer Jr. trundles along on organ. Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott, the then-married couple on tenor and organ, respectively, give us the fevered “Trouble”. But the first completely successful piece, to my mind, is Charles Earland’s “The Mighty Burner”, which swings like a club — and hits as hard. Willis Jackson’s “This’ll Get To Ya” is meant to be a feature for Jackson’s tenor and the bluesy organ by Jack McDuff, which it is, especially the latter. But I was also impressed by Bill Jennings’s guitar. Lou Donaldson’s “Funky Mama” from 1962 reminds me of the horns-and-organ sound Nelson Riddle would refine four years later for Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night album. Which ought to remind us that “fusion” need not refer only a mix of jazz and rock. Jackson’s second cut on the CD, “Troubled Times”, featuring Carl Wilson on the organ, on the other hand, reminds us of the bad side of fusion, that it led to the pointless noodling of “progressive rock”. But this is a CD that can truly be said to have saved the best for last; the blend of Grant Green’s guitar, Yusef Lateef’s sax, and McDuff’s organ on Green’s “Blues In Maude’s Flat” excels all others.

Organ Jazz, some 30-odd years after it’s heyday, stands as a precursor to the fusion that would change both rock and roll and jazz beginning in the 1970s. As a generation came up both of jazz players who liked a little funk, too, and rock and roll players who were beginning to see the limitations of their genre, furtive agreements and exchanges were made. Hammond organ and congas, meet the tenor sax and trumpet. You can’t do all of this, and you can’t do all of that, but lets us see what you can do, they said.