on January 28, 2001
Baby Face Willette isn't as well-known as other jazz organists, but his albums are invariably satisfying. This CD comes from a 1963 date, and Willette is joined by tenor sax player Fred Jackson, who swings hard and preaches the blues with conviction throughout the session. Grant Green, who lent his considerable skills to many jazz organ classics of the 1960s, contributes flawless solos and/or excellent backing on every cut. On drums, organ combo veteran Ben Dixon is, as ever, the perfect sideman, subtle, funky, swinging and tasteful, always on target and never in the way. The set is a mix of swingers and blues, and, for me, the highlight is "Goin' Down", a slow, deepdown blues with stellar solos from Willette and Jackson. "Whatever Lola Wants", from the score of the musical "Damn Yankees", is another good cut. It's taken uptempo, with a slight Latin feel, and creates a solid groove. If you like jazz organ, this set should satisfy you. If you're a newcomer to the genre, this is a good place to start.
This album is so ridiculously cool and groovy, its almost off the scale... It also brilliantly strattles ground between heavy deep and conceptual Blue Note Hard Bop/Soul Jazz and obscure R&B...
I mean, you listen to this album, and you can almost imagine some dark dingy High School Confidential/Greenwich Village dive, with a bunch of kids doing the frug and watusi as a shady looking Jazz band wails away in the backround... (and oh yeah, don't forget a few of Olga's dope dealers lurking in the shadows looking to get some poor youth hooked.)
All kidding aside, Baby Face's playing is quite unusual... its drenched in the blues like Smith, only way way way way more unapologeticly bluesy (IMHO)... and some of his pyrotechnics also seem to foreshadow Groove Holmes... on the other hand, the off centered unpredictability of Freddie Roach and John Patton are there as well, making his playing almost and antithesis to Holmes... or even Patterson and Young. Also of note: His bass lines are way way way cool as well as his brilliantly laid comps, and his sound is very much his own. - - It should be noted that it is a historical fact that he and Jack McDuff used to hang out in the same barber shop together (both had processes), and as hard as it is to say, even though McDuff and McGriff epitomized groovyness, once you hear the mix of Face/Dixon/Green and Fred Jackson, you may not ever be able to go back... The lock between Dixon/Green and Willette are even tighter than on the Donaldson/Patton sessions... tunes build to a frenzic intensity... Fred Jackson's solos can go from Big Tenor Swing one moment, to classic chitlin circuit R&B the next...
SOMETHING STRANGE (a minor blues) and WHATEVER LOLA WANTS are my faves, though all the tunes on the album do it for me.
All in all, I can listen to this album over and over and over and not get enough of it... each player (including Ben Dixon) stands in his own right, yet as a team they are also a force greater than nature... Grant Green, incidentally has a comp that locks in perfectly with Willette and you get the impression that he was having a HECK of a lot of fun on that session, as was everyone else.
Buy this CD... its very possible you never heard Jazz played as bluesy, gritty, grimey and funky as this, and very possible you never will again... such was the era and the matching of the right people at a moment in time, circa the earaly 60s...
on December 31, 2008
I would hazard a guess that very few people have even heard of this guy with the face of a 10 year old but he is really an unsung hero of the Hammond organ.
His sound is very different to that of Jimmy Smith, Larry Young or Jimmy McGriff, for example, and can really swing a good solo.
His sidemen are second to none. Grant Green (despite recording seemingly hundreds of albums for Blue Note) remains a neglected virtuoso and has a more edgier guitar tone on this session than the later stuff.
Fred Jackson is another non-entity on tenor sax but deserved everything a great session like this gave to him (i.e. more recognition).
Drummer Ben Dixon is solid and really swings hard. Name any other sessions he appeared on?
All in all, a fantastic listen. This is jazz playing at its finest with a great production sound to match. Also good as a conversation piece (i.e. "Who the hell is this guy?" "Well.....").
on October 15, 2012
There's not much I can add to the well-written and positive reviews already posted here. This is indeed an excellent album; hot and steamy numbers that swing, with inspired playing by all involved. Baby Face Willette was a fairly unknown name to me before I bought this one. Yes, I'd heard the name, but not his music. Needless to say, I'm very impressed. He's an expressive organist with a very lively and vibrant style, perfectly meshing with Grant Green's familiar guitar licks, and the sax playing of Fred Jackson (another relative unknown who really shines on these songs). "Face to Face" and "Whatever Lola Wants" are my favorite tracks on here, but really, it all cooks and swings. Not a dud on here.
on September 11, 2014
After buying this CD and listening to it many times over, I pulled out my entire jazz organ collection and played it to see how Baby Face Willette compared. From jazz organ greats like Jimmy Smith and Richard "Groove" Holmes to names few will recognize, they were all impressive. In the end, I found myself returning to Willette and playing his CD over and over again. His style is infectious and this quartet is wonderful. If you love jazz organ, you'll probably love this too. If you're new to jazz organ, this is a good introduction. Highly recommended!
on October 23, 2015
A good recording of these old Baby Face Willette hard to find songs, and the CD is worth purchasing if you enjoy this style of Hammond Organ based Jazz - Blues that was played back in the day. Rudy Van Gelder is one of the best A&R technicians that recorded Jazz.
on October 14, 2008
If you are a fan of B-3, or of Grant Green, you surely already know this cd - it was out before. Do you really want to buy a new version? I did, and I suggest that if you like the old one, treat yourself to the improved sound. Heck, it's cheap enough.
This is a great date and I have enjoyed this for years already. It is one of the sometimes overlooked sessions by casual fans of the B-3, but if you are reading this you will want to buy it.
on March 14, 2008
This album swings. It's a great thing that Blue Note finally gave this album the RVG treatment (it was looking for a while like the expensive import was the only way to go). Though there's not much of an argument that Jimmy Smith was the master of the jazz organ, there are other key players that definitely deserve your attention as well. Enter "Baby Face" Willette. It was on Grant Green's Blue note debut (Grant's First Stand) where I first heard his playing and he was really the star of that disc for me. A great underrated musican who only made two albums for Blue note as a leader. Green returns the favor on this disc, as well as drummer Ben Dixon. Definitely pick this up, and the Grant Green disc, especially the track "Miss Ann's Tempo."
Now if only Blue Note would release Grachan Moncur III's Evolution....
on January 20, 2013
baby face cut a handful of excellent albums for blue note. his playing on this l.p. is incendiary. willitte is driven on by the raging sax work of fred jackson. together they create a locomotive. i bought this album for grant green who indeed gets in some nice solos. but his playing here does not reach the raw intensity of his band mates.
on April 23, 2015
This is one of the best jazz albums I have. To give an idea, my taste is currently a mix of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelenious Monk.