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Homage to the queen of the jazz organ: Shirley Scott

Aceves wrote:

The uphill struggle Scott and all other women in jazz face to be taken seriously as musicians and equals can be seen in the liner notes for the original release, which are a typical product of their time and express the adverse attitudes of the era including these unfortunate declarations like, “Shirley Scott is a girl. She does a man-sized job on the organ. "

This kind of sexist mindset can still be found today, and not just in music. However, Aceves points out:

Shirley Scott (1934-2002) enjoyed a four-decade career producing over 40 albums, ranging from intimate trio dates to big bands, exploring bebop, soul jazz, hard bop, and latin jazz.

Discover 40 years of Shirley Scott and her instrument with me and start with this first album. AllMusic reviewer Richie Unterberger wrote:

Scott's first album as a bandleader put her at the head of a trio, supported by the rhythm section of George Duvivier on bass and Arthur Edgehill on drums. While she had already established herself as a notable organist in Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis & # 39; band Great Scott! was her first direct contribution to popularizing the organ in a jazz format that was also based on parts of blues and soul music. She masters the dives and the funky glow of the instrument admirably and mixes hard up-tempo numbers, ballads, Latin-influenced melodies ("Brazil" and "Nothing Ever Changes My Love for You") and bluesy walking beats (as if on) her cover Cole Porter's "All of You")

As I delved deeper into Scott and her story, I was delighted to find this Spotlight piece in which two of her protégés talked about her and her influence in this mini documentary from the NPR Jazz Night in America.

Jazz is now taught in universities, and artists such as saxophonist Tim Warfield and trumpeter Terell Stafford teach at them. But they know that jazz is taught more through listening than reading. more in the bandstand than in the classroom. And they learned these lessons from the organ giant Shirley Scott, who died in 2002.

Scott, known as the "Queen of the Organ," was one of several Philadelphians who developed the electric Hammond B-3 into a viable instrument for a soulful, bluesy jazz style. With dozens of recordings for her name, she was already an important voice by the time she became the head of the house band at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. Warfield and Stafford were among the young players who shyly found their way onto the stage at Ortlieb & # 39; s – and much more than they expected.

In this documentary, Jazz Night In America remembers Shirley Scott through the stories of two of her last protégés and bandmates.

Her 2002 NY Times obituary describes her impressive and productive accomplishment.

Ms. Scott was born in the mid-1950s, the golden age of Hammond B3 organ jazz, with a fast, punchy sound that combined bebop, gospel and blues. She was on a lighter note than Jimmy Smith, the leading organist in jazz, and relied less on the blues than he did. In her groups with saxophonists Eddie Davis, known as Lockjaw, and Stanley Turrentine, with whom she was married for a number of years, Ms. Scott produced some of the most influential recordings in the gentler, more pop-oriented soul-jazz style.

Their recorded output has been great, with more than 50 albums being leaders, especially on the Prestige and Impulse labels. Her first recordings were with Davis, and she starred with him on a number of classics, including his "Cookbook" albums and the 1958 hit "In the Kitchen".

She married Turrentine in 1960 and made a number of albums with him over the next decade, including Soul Shoutin, Blue Flames and Hip Soul. Their music together was often intense, but Ms. Scott has also recorded many casual tracks, often including show songs and pop covers such as The Beatles "Can't Buy Me Love".

Here she is with Turrentine playing "Soul Shoutin".

In 1964 she recorded this live album, aptly titled "Queen of the Organ".

After listening to Scott and other jazz organists, I thought I should dive into the history of the organ and jazz. One of the most interesting essays I've found was written by the film and music historian some time ago in 1988 Geoff Alexander. Although he found that his conclusions about the death of the jazz organ were wrong, looking back on his work, I found his section on the audience and the buying market meaningful.

Jazz organ in America

Those looking to find good jazz organ records at their favorite record store may be seriously disappointed. Aside from a few Jimmy Smith discs and perhaps another from Jack McDuff, the shelves in new record stores are rarely filled with organ records. Used record stores often turn out to be a bonanza as many older titles are drastically marked for removal and the collector can easily walk out with an armload of worthwhile organ records for less than twenty dollars. It shouldn't be like that, of course: this great jazz instrument shouldn't be relegated to the trash cans and flea markets that have been cut out, but it is, and you have to face facts. The jazz organ is a dying instrument.

One reason for imminent death is that the majority of record buyers in this country are white and the white community, by and large, has never properly embraced this instrument in a jazz or "hip" context. The idea of ​​the organ in the white community seldom goes beyond Christmas organ and carillon or "baseball organ" or organ-goes Hawaiian or, worse, slow, meandering organ that accompanies spoken romantic poetry. Most of these people come closest to the organ when they attend "appropriate" events such as weddings and funerals and they (and their children) are the record buyers.

It's a different story in the black community. Far from the organ mourning aura found in most white churches, the black church has continually promoted what I would call an almost Bacchanal approach to the instrument. Just as the black preacher verbally crosses the line between the sacred and the profane, the organ in the black church often produces highly charged, emotional, fast-paced and "danceable" music that is directly related to jazz and blues. Some of the best jazz organists began playing in church (Fats Waller and Charles Kynard, to name but two), and in this dying era of the instrument as a true force in jazz, many of its best players will find an oasis there. If after reading this article the reader wants to hear the instrument and still can't find a room with an organ trio, I recommend going to a black church in Oakland, Akron, Baltimore, or another urban black neighborhood and attending a Sunday evening service . The organists there are usually pretty good and at times great.

While it doesn't address Scott's work other than mentioning that she is one of the people on the long list of Jimmy Smith-influenced organists, I hadn't considered the marketing aspect of who is buying what and why. Although I did not grow up in the black church, I was no stranger to its influence and sound.

Scott's choice of instrument did not seem ecclesiastical. In Peter Vacher's Guardian obituary, he wrote:

Scott was born in Philadelphia. Her father ran a jazz club – or speakeasy as she later suggested – in the basement of the family home, while her older brother was a competent jazz saxophonist. Originally attracted to the piano, she recorded the trumpet at Philadelphia Girls' High School, won a scholarship, and became adept enough to play in the all-city school band, despite at one point being a pianist with a touring band ran away.

Her conversion to the organ came after listening to a Jackie Davis record at the age of 18; The arrival of Jimmy Smith in Philadelphia was another spur. Suddenly the club owners wanted organ players and Scott, who had learned the mechanics of the instrument, soon got jobs with local bands after playing with John Coltrane in a trio that supported the hi-tones vocal group.

When tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis needed a replacement for his combo in 1955, it was discontinued. The group frequently recorded an album with the hit blues track In The Kitchen. Davis talked about Scott's beauty and hung lights on the organ so the audience could enjoy the way she played the bass lines on the foot pedals. She was never entirely happy with this gender stereotyping and said, "I was only interested in gambling."

Steve Voces Independent Obit sheds light on Scott's acceptance of other musicians and their stance on highlighting their gender.

Many people thought that even though Count Basie and Fats Waller were the first to play jazz organs, Shirley Scott was the best. Basie definitely did. In 1958, Scott was playing on the opening night of Count Basie's Bar in New York and Basie was asked to follow him. He refused and pointed to the tiny figure. "Not after her!"

Aside from her dexterity on the instrument, Shirley Scott let it roar. Her heavy shouldered swing belied her small stature. She weighed eight stones. "I think if I was about five inches taller and about 15 pounds more in the right places it wouldn't hurt. But I prefer people to listen to what I have to offer instead of asking: "What does she have a big butt? Does she have a big butt?" "Scott moved easily in the harmonies of bebop, combining them in an unusually rhythmic style that made extensive use of blues and gospel music.

As I never had the chance to see / hear them live, I am once again grateful for the existence of YouTube and the jazz fans who upload great music.

This was one of our jazz organ honors from the San Francisco Jazz Festival. Shirley Scott hadn't played in San Francisco in thirty years! I also had Jack McDuff and Duke Jethro on the bill. Here Shirley plays with tenor saxophonist Scott E-Dog Petersen and drummer Eddie Marshall. That was November 3, 1996.

To make sure you don't believe that women playing the jazz organ are a thing of the past, you should see Barbara Dennerlein and Rhoda Scott Jammin in Switzerland at the 2002 Bern Jazz Festival.

That just got me on my feet, danced around the room and applauded!

See you in the comments section for a lot more soul jazz organ music and organists.

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