Brother Jack McDuff ‘Gin and Orange’ (Dusty Groove) 4/5

Eugene McDuffy, better known as Brother Jack McDuff, is an Illinois-born hammond B3 organist who is equally at ease with blues, soul and funk-inflected grooves as he is with jazz. He forged his early reputation as an organist for the Prestige label and in particular for his recordings alongside crack band members comprising guitarist George Benson, saxophonist Red Holloway and drummer Joe Dukes. McDuff, however, also played as sideman with a host of top jazz musicians including Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and Sonny Stitt among others.

By the late 1960s the traditional organ jazz combo was undergoing new influences, primary amongst them being the new drum beats pioneered by James Brown’s band and the emerging sound of soul. This was reflected in the two albums McDuff recorded at this period for Blue Note with the grittier ‘Down Home Style’, taking a leaf out of the Stax label, and on the superb ‘Moon Rappin’’, where improvisation and funky licks merged effortlessly. Jack McDuff was shifting at this stage between the legendary Blue Note and other labels, but then began what proved to be a long-term collaboration with the jazz subsidiary of Chicago’s Chess label, Cadet. 

It is from this fruitful collaboration that ‘Gin and Orange’, recorded in 1969, derives. Clearly McDuff’s music was in a transitional period with not only the aforementioned soul and funk influences, but equally those of psychadelic rock. A new style characterised by heavy bass lines, with greater emphasis placed upon the rhythm, came to the fore. It was not uncommon at this time to hear jazz 45s on jukeboxes and the boogaloo-inspired title track was an obvious attempt to garner wider public appeal.

Easy listening mid-tempo grooves can be heard on the lilting ‘On the case’ while repetitive groove-laden irffs abound on ‘Get it up’. Long-term fans of the organist will be attracted by arguably the catchiest self-composition, ‘With the wind’, harking back in sound to the classic mid-1960s combo while ‘Channel One’ is uptempo and classic McDuff territory on which nice guitar licks and hammond solos predominate. Among his Cadet recordings, then, ‘Gin and Orange’ surely rates as one of McDuffs most eclectic albums. While it did not quite reach the dizzy heights of ‘Heatin’ System’ (richly deserving of a re-issue again) or ‘Natural Thing’, it nonetheless showcased the new McDuff sound and as a difficult enough album to find is a welcome discovery for the listener. 

Tim Stenhouse