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Richard "Groove" Holmes Book of the Blues Vol.1 Review

Album. Released 3 May 2004.  

BBC Review

Expanded reissue of a neglected classic from the great organist 'Groove' Holmes.

Greg Boraman 2004

Richard "Groove" Holmes never attained the same kind of super star status as Hammond legend Jimmy Smith - despite being equally skilled in the keyboard pyrotechnics department. This collection features a grittier, good time approach than Smith's albums for Blue Note and later Verve Records. In the 1970s' Holmes pioneered funk and fusion sounds - often using wah wah pedals and other effects to augment the basic Hammond sound, but here the approach is straight ahead but no less moving.

Recorded around the same time as Jimmy Smiths' first big band recordings, Book of the Blues does very much what it says on tin, as Holmes wanders through the standard mid 60's blues songbook in quartet and big band settings. No matter what the setting, Holmes' soulful organ solos, backed by his own rocksteady pedal bass work, pulse with swing and in-the-pocket timing, surging from understated trills in the upper register to full on intense church style preaching that falls just the right side of overpowering.

The earthy balled "How Long, How Long Blues" showcases this gospel approach magnificently, Holmes' double-handed chord voicings producing some old school but utterly stunning crescendos of sound, juxtaposed by mellow passages as the rhythm section keep the tempo, allowing Holmes to gently groove right around the beat.

In stark contrast "Roll Em Pete" is a foot stomping swing number where Holmes gets a chance to display his incredible coordination, asscattershot soloing rides overasteadfast organ bass line- a feat akin to playing two instruments at the same. The unnamed guitarist supplies some fine and fluid soloing as this number roars ahead - it's impossible to remain static under the onslaught until the typically grandiose finale puts a seal on the proceedings.

Groove Holmes remains the jazz organists' organist - and this even this straightahead set hints at the way that organ jazz was to develop over the coming decade; good time, soulful sounds but always with enough 'art' to keep your ears happy whilst your foot taps along!

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