Record of the Day: Richard "Groove" Holmes, "The Best of..."

Record of the Day: Richard “Groove” Holmes, “The Best of…”

Richard “Groove” Holmes
The Best of the Pacific Jazz Years (CD EMI 7243530829)

The nickname really says it all: Richard Holmes, an organist who enjoyed great success during the soul-jazz wave that swept America from the late ’50s to the mid-’60s, was truly one of the champions of the groove thanks to his rustic and no-frills style, not particularly sophisticated from a harmonic point of view but perfect in its genre.
Holmes’ music is made exclusively to amuse and entertain, soaked to the core in blues (but perfectly at the
current of the jazz language of his years).

Holmes was an avid admirer of Jimmy Smith from the very beginning and always considered him his role model, but his way of articulating the sentences by improvising on the two keyboards is decidedly more basic and much less complex or whirlwind than Smith’s, with syncopated and very rhythmic figurations that are more reminiscent of colleagues like Jack McDuff and “Big” John Patton.

At the recommendation of pianist Les McCann, record producer Richard Bock signed Holmes to his Jazz Pacific label, for which the Camden organist released many titles; this excellent anthology collects the best of the years 1961-1968, bringing together live and studio tracks that see Holmes in the company of such respected names as Ben Webster, Gerald Wilson, Ernie Watts, Gene Ammons, Joe Pass and Mel Lewis.

The repertoire almost always consists of long jam sessions that follow the well-trodden paths of the twelve bars but Holmes often manages to invent something interesting while avoiding routine even in an inflated field like this.
The bass lines he was able to create with the pedalboard were formidable (it is no coincidence that he also played the double bass and another of his musical idols was Paul Chambers), flowing and equipped with a special rhythmic snap that supported the solos of his other colleagues with elasticity.

On songs like “Groovin’ Time” and “Hittin’ the Jug” Holmes manages to reach the heights of energy and virtuosity that were the trademark of his idol Smith, through torrential solos that spit heat from every phrase (as in “High Blues Pressure” and “That Healin’ Feeling”) but there is also a moment of greater relaxation with the gentle shuffle of “Secret Love”.
Are you on vacation and want to organize a party? This is the album for you.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical subjects.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: Un disco per ogni giorno dell’anno” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.