My first foray into jazz was Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I was a relatively naive music collector who thought that opening the door to a new genre would be easy. Actually, it was not. When I realized what jazz was all about, the many forms and shapes it could take, and just how much was out there, I almost gave up. Then, there was Blue Note Records. The Blue Note sound got me. The Lp cover art got me too. I got into Grant Green, and scrambled to get everything that was available from him. In some of his records, there was this organ sound, and it was a sound I grew to love. I can recall being at the Groove Merchant in San Francisco in the 90’s, staring in awe at a copies of “The Final Comedown”, and “Green Street”. This love of Green’s jazz/funk/soul sound led me to guys like Lou Donaldson, who in turn led me to Jimmy Smith, Reuben Wilson, Jimmy McGriff, Groove Holmes, and ultimately to Brother Jack McDuff. I got into the Hammond B-3 sound with a lot of voracity, and again visited my favorite record shop (which at that time was an hour away) once a week to buy what ever I could by these Blue Note artists. Brother Jack had “Moon Rappin’ “, and I was in heaven.
From the very first time I put on “Moon Rappin’ “, “Oblighetto” always stood out. The eerie, spacey organ sound of Brother Jack (later changing his title to Captain, and punctuating it with a Captain’s hat) kept my attention. As the equally creepy and outer space vocals of Jean DuShon kick in (side note: DuShon was a veteran jazz singer who worked with many jazz greats and recorded albums for Atlantic and Chess Records among others), I almost felt like I was watching a space horror movie as a kid, glued to our television tuned to Philadelphia’s Channel 48 Creature Double Feature. However, I was glued to something altogether different, some aural stimulation created by McDuff’s Hammond, which shortly kicks just as hard as a David Beckham penalty kick. McDuff’s organ, Jerry Byrd’s guitar, Richard Davis’s bass, and Joe Dukes’ drums lock into a tight groove, and they seem like they’re really recording it from the moon. The term “in the pocket” seems like a severe understatement. If you can’t nod your head to this gem of funky jazz, then it might be time for you to get your ears checked out.
When I got into the record game heavy and started to collect all the roots of hip hop, the first stuff I started buying up were Blue Note 45s, the foundation of all the music I was into. This was the music I was spinning out at clubs. So when I got “Oblighetto”, it wasn’t long before I found out that a portion of it was used in a song by A Tribe Called Quest, a certain song that I had been into since “The Low End Theory” dropped, a song that always got a great response at my DJ nights: “Scenario”.
“Oblighetto” has also seen some more light of day, when Blue Note released a remix record in 2004. This great track was flipped and remixed by none other than the late, great, producer James Yancey, aka Jay Dee, aka J Dilla. By 2004 we knew Dilla was a genius producer, and this reworking of this record was another set of his production muscles he flexed, remixing this McDuff tune. While the whole “Moon Rappin'” record was not as much heavy funk as it was jazz soul, “Oblighetto”, in my opinion has as a funky element that can not be denied. Brother Jack (or Captain Jack, whichever you prefer), died in 2001 at the age of 74. He had a long musical career, recording for Prestige, Blue Note, Concord, Atlantic, Cadet, and Sugarhill among others. He was one of the greats of the jazz organ, and is definitely missed.