Richard “Groove” Holmes – Living Soul

Richard “Groove” Holmes – Living Soul from the Prestige Records 45

Good Friday to everyone. This one’s gonna be on the short side, as I totally forgot I have the day off from work, and I am going to try and enjoy the day, maybe dig a bit, and relax as much as I can. Since yesterday was the first day of Spring (you could hardly tell here, with the wind it felt like a Winter day), I originally was going to post “Spring Fever by the Music Makers, but in light of the cold weather, I think I’ll save it until I at least don’t need a scarf. I’m gonna set the holiday weekend off in a Soul Jazz way people. Here is another one of my favorite artists, a guy who can deliver a Soul message just a notch above the rest. I am speaking on Richard “Groove” Holmes and “Living Soul” on Prestige Records from 1966.

Richard Arnold Holmes was born in Camden, NJ in 1931. Nicknamed “Groove” because of the groove he kept while playing the organ, whether it was a standard, up tempo, ballad, or interpretation of the day’s music. He signed with Pacific Jazz in 1961, and had a short career recording wise. His most famous side was “Misty”, recorded in 1965. His impact on Soul Jazz, and the B3 community, as well as laying down the roots for Acid Jazz some 30 years before the genre and tremendous. He recorded most notably for Pacific Jazz, Prestige, Loma, Olympic, Flying Dutchman, Columbia, Groove Merchant, and Muse, although he did release sides on a few other labels later on in his career. With a keen ear for interpretation, lightning quick hands and feet, and the ability to lay down a bad ass bass groove, this New Jersey and Philly favorite son’s reputation was legendary. His records with Gene Ammons and Ben Webster, as well as his battles with Jimmy Smith, showed his tenacity on the organ, and as a large man (over 300 lbs.), his intimidating presence was felt not just on the keys. You knew when Groove was in the room. He died in 1991 at the age of 60 in St. Louis, MO. For me, along with Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Brother Jack, McDuff, and others, Groove was definitely one of the first Soul Jazz guys I got into when I was collecting.

This particular side was captured in Harlem at Count Basie’s Night Club. The trio of Holmes, George Randall on drums, and Gene Edwards on guitar are a perfect example why Groove was so popular as he was during that time period. The guy could go on forever all night, with just the Hammond and slay audiences. He deserves a spot in the Jazz Funk Hall of Fame if there ever was one. I could only hope that there was some stuff like this going on around me in this day and age. I saw Jimmy Smith in San Francisco in the 90’s, and he blew me away. I have no doubts that if I had ever seen Groove, he would have done the same. Have a great weekend and see you on Monday. Keep diggin’!

7 responses to “Richard “Groove” Holmes – Living Soul

  1. Nice cut for sure. I only have a limited appetite for boogie organ jazz like this, but a little is good here and there. I can’t say that I was overwhelmed with the Holmes albums I picked up, but they are nice to have in the mix. Jimmy McGriff is probably my favorite of his generation of organ greats because he got into some real stank funk on a few of his albums.

  2. Hey Man,
    Thanks so much, I read your blog all the time and love it, especially the Soul Jazz. I thought I would add that a major part of Groove’s groove was his left-handedness. On organ, that translates to your strong hand playing bass, and no one could do it like Groove did, be it funk or up tempo bop (for instance check out the first track on the “On Basie’s Bandstand” album, it’s about 300 bpm but it just grooves!).

    I wonder if you’ve ever come across any sides by “Sammy Little John” in your digging? They would have been recorded for the Soft Label in Texas in the mid 60s. The organist/singer Sammy Myers (his real name) is here in Hartford, CT and I go see him every week. He just told me about his sides and said they were regionally pretty popular in their day.


  3. i would like to take the time out to thank all that has appreciated and respected my fathers music. i am his oldest daughter and look a like like him. even though hes not here with me today i always think about him especially when i look in the mirror. sadly missed he was always my king my big teddy bear punching his big belly whenever i was close to him ha ha! i remember him taking me to hear him play and he would always acknowledge me as his daughter. that made me feel very important like a celebrity very shy though. again thank you thank you thank you very much denise d holmes carter

  4. Denise, I met your father through Willie Pettis. Willie played guitar for Groove for a while. Your father was a good, kind person and one heck of a musician. May his spirit guide and protect you.

  5. jazz fans i feel groove holmes was so far ahead of his time .the way he played was pure delight. i had the honor of traveling with groove for five years. i was his road manager, through the years i thought that he would get his due. boy was i wrong. i was proud to work for him, also proud to have been his brother in law. rest in peace groove . sincerly tony lowe

  6. This is an EPIC track – an explosive freight train of furious groove onslaught and one of the most outrageous pieces of B3 jazz or jazz at all for that matter. It’s a trio, but it sounds like four musicians as he accompanies himself on bass (pedals). If you think about what he is doing, above and below, and how tricky (impossible?) it is to do what he’s doing, it’s clear that it’s a highly rarefied event.

    They no longer make musicians like him, or music like this. Even more impressive that he wrote it- it sounds like a standard. It should be.

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