Though his tendency to stick close to his Pittsburgh, PA base may have cost organist Gene Ludwig some of the wider notoriety his talents deserve, he's built a solid reputation among fans of the Hammond B-3 since he switched over from piano after hearing Jimmy Smith expose the possibilities of the instrument in 1957. Along the way, Ludwig has played with some top names, including tenures with guitarist Pat Martino and saxophonist Sonny Stitt.
On The Groove ORGANization, he's in similarly illustrious company, with guitarist Bob DeVos and drummer Billy James joining him for the session. At first, that may seem to leave the group one tenor saxophone short of the classic organ combo lineup, but you won't miss it. This trio fills the space just fine, and I wouldn't sacrifice any of the excellent solos by Ludwig and DeVos for an additional instrument.
The disc opens with a pair of hard swinging numbers before before settling into the blues groove of Joe Henderson's "Step Lightly." They continue to hold the pace down for a lush arrangement of Ellington's "Mood Indigo" before shifting into DeVos' R&B influenced burner, "Pause For Fred's Claws." That's followed by what, to me, is a standout cut in a set of 10 outstanding cuts, Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce." While I like a strong soul jazz track by an organ combo as well as anyone, the B-3 is also one of the great voices for bebop in the hands of a capable player, and Ludwig's capabilities more than meet the challenge of the material. The track also provides room for a Billy James drum solo and, as too seldom the case, it's a delight. That gives way to Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar," which yields in turn to a version of Miles Davis' "All Blues" that competes with "Billie's Bounce" as my favorite cut. The album closes with a pair of standards, "You've Changed" and "It's You Or No One," which continue to display the high level of talent the trio possesses.
While interest in organ jazz rises and falls in the marketplace, great jazz performances are timeless regardless of the instrumentation, and this album contains ten tracks of great, timeless jazz music.