Roger Humphries – “A Night At The Hurricane” – 8.25.17

On Friday evening after dinner, I put on a recently purchased copy of Charles Earland‘s Black Talk LP.  I’ve owned this soul-jazz classic for years, but due to finding a cleaner copy, it had reentered rotation at the house.  About halfway through the last song on the LP, “More Today Than Yesterday“, I got a audio text message from a friend who was at James Street. So I muted the Earland record to listen to what Wayne had sent me….an short audio clip he had just recorded of Roger Humphries and friends playing…..wait for it………..”More Today Than Yesterday”.  No joke! I was aware of the show happening at James Street that night and I was sort of planning on going.  But this message was too much of an awesome coincidence for me to NOT attend.

The show was billed as “A Night At The Hurricane”. The Hurricane was a now-legendary jazz club in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 50’s and 60’s. A ton of soul-jazz and hard bop acts played there over the years including Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Stitt, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Jimmy McGriff and many many more.  On Friday, drummer Roger Humphries put together a quartet of Pittsburgh’s finest to pay tribute to the music that was so often heard at the Hurricane, most specifically organ based soul-jazz.

Humphries’ quartet on this particular evening was assembled with soulful funky organ jazz in mind.  Organist Jimmy McGriff once called the Hurricane  “the Apollo Theater” of the jazz organ universe.  Holding down the organ duties on Friday, and very aptly so, was a veteran of the local scene, Keith Stebler.  I love watching and hearing a great organ player do their thing especially in a group with no bass guitar.  Sometimes, in the late 60’s or very early 70’s, groups would add a bass player in an attempt to deepen the groove or to make the sounds feel more contemporary.  But to me the true organ jazz sound is all about bass lines played with the organist’s left hand (and/or feet!) and Stebler can really hold it down!  Guitarist Mark Strickland, whom I somehow had not seen before, with his clean classic guitar lines was also a great choice for this style.  He just had that perfect tone.  Lou Stellute plays with Humphries quite a bit and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else in Pittsburgh playing sax on this night.  Stellute plays hard with a raw intensity and enthusiasm that not many other players can achieve, and once again, it was perfect for this style.

During the one set I was able to catch, the quartet ran though a few staples of the era including Gene Ammons‘ “Red Top” and Erroll Garner’s “Misty” (see video above)  made popular by Richard “Groove” Holmes along with some other tunes that I either can’t remember or don’t know by name.  They sounded great but I have to say that I had hoped for more intensity.  It just wasn’t greasy enough for me.  My favorite tracks of the organ jazz era certainly aren’t the lush ballad type tunes.  They are the raucous, funky, deep, gritty grooves that would be difficult to NOT want to dance to. Think Grant Green‘s live albums,  Lou Donaldson‘s late-60’s Blue Note records, or some of Earland’s or Rusty Bryant‘s late 60’s Prestige catalog, etc etc etc.  But, aside from that, this was an great set of tunes from one of my favorite eras of music played by some of the city’s best musicians and a really dug it.   I hope they do it again… and you should too!  Enjoy!





Record Scores – August ’14

rw_spiritRobert Walter w/ Gary Bartz
Spirit of ’70
Greyboy Records – 1996

bryant_soul-libRusty Bryant
Soul Liberation
Prestige – 1970

head-onBobby Hutcherson
Head On
Blue Note – 1971

blades_notesWil Blades
Field Notes
Royal Potato Family – 2014

woods_musiquePhil Woods
Musique du bois
Muse Records – 1974

automatorAutomator (Dan the Automator)
A Much Better Tomorrow
75 Ark – 2000


Walt Dickerson
This Is Walt Dickerson
New Jazz – 1961

marshallEddie Marshall
Dance of the Sun
Timeless Muse – 1978


Brown/Roach Inc.
Study In Brown ’55
Trip Jazz

gg_bornGrant Green
Born To Be Blue
Blue Note – 1985

Idris Muhammad (1939-2014)

IdrisMuhammadJazz drummer Idris Muhammad died on Tuesday.  Muhammad, born Leo Morris, is probably my favorite drummer of all time.  He has played on so many incredible recordings by some of my favorite jazz artists like Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Lonnie Smith, Bob James and many many more.  Whether you’re a fan of jazz, soul, funk, or hip hop, you’ve definitely heard his funky, groove-oriented beats.  The genre he helped create, “Soul Jazz”, in the mid to late 60’s is my absolute favorite little pocket or sub-genre of music by far.

Although I’m reluctant to mention it on a jazz blog, I play drums on occasion in a soul-jazz band here in Pittsburgh, called Cadillac Club (actually named after Lou Donaldson’s live LP, The Scorpion: Live At The Cadillac Club, which features Muhammad on drums).  Words cannot express how deeply I’ve been influenced and entertained by his playing.

Here are just a few of my favorite tracks featuring Muhammad throughout the years.

Record Scores – Nov/Dec 2013

Bennie Maupin

The Jewel In The Lotus
1974 – ECM


Wayne Horvitz & Zony Mash
Cold Spell
1997 – Knitting Factory Works

Houston Person

1969 – Prestige


Grant Green
Carryin’ On
1970 – Blue Note

DJ Cam

No. 1
1997 – Shadow Records
2x 10″ Vinyl

Lou Donaldson

Fried Buzzard
1967 – Cadet


Jean-Marc Padovani Septet
Out – “Tribute To Eric Dolphy”
2003 – Deux Z

Miles Davis Quartet

“A Night In Tunisia”
1955 – Prestige
7″ Vinyl

Joe Henderson

In Japan
1973 – Milestone

Donald Byrd (1932-2013)

Donald Byrd died last Monday. I’ve been a big fan of his for years.

The first time I heard of him was when my friend Colin gave me a split CD with Donald Byrd’s Up and Grant Green’s His Majesty King Funk. That CD actually introduced me to both of those guys and it was a pretty big musical moment since it opened the door to the world of 60′s funky soul jazz.

My favorite album of his might be Ethiopian Knights, which was also originally given to me by another good friend years ago. This album was more electric and exploratory and really really good. After Knights, Byrd’s music got smoother and more R&B influenced as the albums went on until he eventually went pretty much all out disco, which was the path of many jazz musicians at the time to try to make money.

My last (and possibly still current?) band, Cadillac Club, covered “Weasil” from Byrd’s Fancy Free album. We never really got it totally right, but it was fun to play. I think the original studio recording of “Weasil” featured Pittsburgh native Jimmy Ponder on guitar. I’ve seen him at jazz nights around town in the last few years and he still sounds great.