This compilation includes tracks from three early albums by Brother turned Captain Jack McDuff ("Brother Jack" (tracks 1-8), "Steppin' Out" (9) and "Goodnight, It’s Time To Go" (10-14)).
With the first eight tracks, McDuff’s sound ranges from roller rink to church and early soul-jazz. McDuff played differently while part of tenor saxophonist Willis Jackson’s band. He’s supported by Bill Jennings almost country-style guitar, but the twanging is quite different. It’s more of a blues/country sound that’s soulful and part of the rich African-American musical heritage. In addition, Wendell Marshall is on bass, which is not a frequent occurrence in organ combos for obvious reasons (bass pedals). However, McDuff is not really utilizing the bass as usual. Textures change through cuts like "Noon Train" and "Mack ‘n’ Duff," while others like "Brother Jack," "Mr. Wonderful," and "Organ Grinder’s Swing" stick to more of the roller-rink sound. There are five McDuff originals through the "Brother Jack" album and standards fill the remainder.
For the second part of this anthology, he’s supported by the three greats: Grant Green (guitar), Harold Vick (tenor sax), and Joe Dukes (drums). This was the introduction of his own nucleus band. There was profound change in his keyboard technique, as well as the use of modern rhythms associated with soul-jazz during this period. This is the McDuff we jazz lovers fell for. Though both sessions were recorded between 1960-61, the difference is remarkable. Green and Vick inspire the best in McDuff and vice versa. Those deep tones of Vick’s tenor sax croon out the most soulful invitation. These tracks have the late-night, chitlin’ circuit groove that’s quite sexy and very deep. The best illustration is the title track "Goodnight, It’s Time To Go," though a cover of the doo-wop hit, is more aligned with the R & B version. One can hear the teasing torture of McDuff’s ripping staccato heat up and cool down only to burn the track’s ending. "Sanctified Waltz," is quite interesting and almost sinful, inviting one to dance in a way not associated with church. The fire is lit with "McDuff Speaking," as the quartet burns rapidly, but cooperatively. James Brown said, "Give the drummer some." Joe Dukes handled his responsibility like a hero, carrying these heavyweights confidently. It’s good that Fantasy/Prestige is releasing more of his session work.
Perhaps it’s obvious that the second half of the CD wins ("Steppin Out" and "Goodnight, It’s Time To Go"). The remaining tracks ("Godiva Brown," "A Smooth One," and "I’ll Be Seeing You") feel just as good as those mentioned. This gets a gold star for great moments in soul-jazz.