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  Johnny Hammond

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Click below for a Johnny Hammond sample:


Star Borne


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One of the dominant jazz organists of the 60s, Johnny Smith took on the name Hammond in recognition of his association with the instrument.  Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he began recording for Prestige in 1959 after a short stint with singer Nancy Wilson.   During the next decade he was a constant presence on the jazz scene thanks to LPs like Talk That Talk, Ebb Tide, and Soul Talk. His sidemen at this time included Houston Person and Bernard Purdie, and he was grouped with Jimmy Smith, Richard "Groove" Holmes, and Jack McDuff as one of the most inventive soul-jazz musicians. 

In the 70s, he pursued a fusion career that was largely aided by Fonce and Larry Mizell, the shapers of Bobbi Humphrey's and Donald Byrd's most popular work.  Using their patented formula of soul backbeats, layers of instrumentation and smooth background vocals, the new approach was signalled with Gambler's Life.  In the liner notes to the album, Hammond was quoted as saying he had practiced twelve hours a day for three months to master the electric piano and was so happy with the range of sounds on the piano that he was giving up the organ.  That ebullience was short-lived, as Hammond returned to standard organ dates in the 80s.   Hammond died June 4, 1997.  His work frequently appears on compilations aimed at the jazz-dance community and DJs enamored with sampling Hammond's funky breaks. 

Johnny Hammond's Deepest Grooves

That Good Feelin'(Prestige, 1959)

Talk That Talk (Prestige, 1960)

Black Coffee (Prestige, 1962)

Ebb Tide (Prestige, 1967)

Nasty (Prestige, 1968)

Soul Talk (Prestige, 1969)

Black Feeling (Prestige, 1969)
"Dig On It" is the sample cut here.

Breakout (CTI, 1971)

What's Going On (CTI, 1971)

Wild Horse Rock Steady (Kudu, 1972)
Bob James arranged this, which features his hit version of "Rock Steady."

Higher Ground (CTI, 1973)
Continuing his fascination with covers, this has him doing Stevie Wonder's title cut and also "The Ghetto."  Also has the much-loved "Big Sur Suite."

Gambler's Life (Salvation, 1974)
The LP where he begins favoring the electric piano and synthesizer instead of the organ.  This is also the first collaboration between Hammond and the Mizell Brothers.  As with all their productions, this is a funky fusion classic with those lovely vocal harmonies floating in and out of the mix.  Assembled largely with the same cast that would record the more popular Gears, this album is essential for serious collections.  Particularly compelling cuts include "Star Borne" and "Back to the Projects." 

Gears (Milestone, 1975)
The highlight of Hammond's career, home to the dancefloor classics "Los Conquistadores Chocolates," "Tell Me What To Do," "Fantasy" and "Shifting Gears." Keeping it short and sweet, these are six examples of the highest quality fusion available.

Forever Taurus(Milestone, 1976)
Wade Marcus assumes production responsibilities from the Mizells, and while he's no slouch, it is difficult to maintain the quality control established by the Mizells.  Not a bad album by any means, as evidenced by "Ghetto Samba," but  it's not the first Hammond you should buy.

Don't Let the System Get to You (Prestige, 1976)

Legends of Acid Jazz (Prestige, 1999)
Two volume compilation of highlights from his 60s sessions.

Copyright 2002 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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