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 Wednesday, 23 July 2014
B3 legend Jimmy McGriff passes at 72 PDF Print
Written by Don Berryman   
Monday, 26 May 2008

"They talk about who taught me this and who taught me that, but the basic idea of what I'm doing on the organ came from the church, That's how I got it, and I just never dropped it." -Jimmy McGriff


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Jimmy McGriff by Atael Weissman

One of the great Hammiond B3 organists of all time, Jimmy McGriff, passed away on Saturday, May 24th in Philidelphia. McGriff's appeal extended to jazz, r&b and pop audiences while basically playing the same music which was jazzier than Booker T. and bluesier that Jimmy Smith. But McGriff didn't consider himself a jazz organist, "People are always classifying me as a jazz organist, but I'm more of a blues organ player, That's really what I feel."

James Harrell McGriff was born on April 3, 1936, in Philadelphia where Jimmy Smith laid the groundwork for modern jazz organ. Other noteable organists associated with Philly include Doc Bagley, Shirley Scott, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Joey DeFrancesco, and Charles Earland (who later made Chicago his home). Both of his parents were pianists, but McGriff started out playing bass and saxophone, and later added drums, vibes, and piano.

 

ImageMcGriff served as a military policeman during the Korean War and spent two and a half years as a Philadelphia policeman. During that time he moonlighted as a bassist. His experience as a bass player would later inform his organ style, which featured strong, swinging bass patterns. It was after leaving the force that McGriff focused on music and studied in New York City at Juilliard. He also studied privately with Jimmy Smith, "Groove" Holmes, Milt Buckner, and classical organist Sonny Gatewood. Significant to McGriff's musical development were his experiences growing up in the Philadelphia's Eastern Star Baptist Church. His sound is heavily influenced by gospel music.

In 1962,  McGriff was 'discovered' while performing in Trenton, New Jersey, by a talent scout who heard McGriff's's arrangement of "I've Got a Woman" and offered him a contract. Sue Records in New York purchased the master and it became a smash, peaking at No. 5 on Billboard's R&B chart and at No. 20 on the pop list. With that and subsequent singles  "All About My Girl," "M.G. Blues," and "Bump De Bump," McGriff gained great poplularity and his records were stocked in juke boxes across the country. After leaving Sue Records, McGriff recorded many records including releases on  State, Blue Note, Capitol, United Artists, Groove Merchant, and JAM.

In the 70's McGriff ran his own jazz club, the Golden Slipper in Newark and recorded two great live records there. McGriff continued to record and delight audinces well into the 21st century.



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