Gimme Five: Overlooked jazz organists Larry Goldings, Big John Patton, Charles Earland, Larry Young, Lonnie Smith

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by S. Victor Aaron

Here, we take a look at the mighty Hammond B-3. To make it a bit challenging, no records by the organ jazz godfather Jimmy Smith will be on the list. Also, since I might have a list of acid jazz records later on, the more recent groovers will be excluded:

1. Larry Young; Into Somethin’ (1964)
At the beginning of the ’60’s, Larry Young was just another Jimmy Smith disciple. By the landmark 1965 recording Unity he established himself as the modal jazz answer to Smith.

Into Somethin finds Young well on his way there, with just a touch of grease left in his sound. But it’s clear everyone is stretching out a bit more, and with personnel like Grant Green, Sam Rivers and Elvin Jones, why not?

2. Larry Goldings; Caminhos Cruzados (1993)
Recent, yes, but not a groover. While Goldings earned his stripes playing in Maceo Parker’s world-class funk band around this time, Goldings is actually the logical successor to Larry Young’s cerebral type of organ playing.

Here, Goldings’ theme is a latin one, so while there are rhythms, they originate way south of the border. A nice mixture of originals and Jobim classics, such as “O Amor Em Paz (Once I Loved)” with varying tempos throughout. Woefully little-noticed guitarist Peter Bernstien does nicely here, and three tracks feature Joshua Redman. A nice diversion from the run-of-the-mill organ jazz.

3. Charles Earland; Black Talk (1969)
Earland had to be represented here because while he may not have been the most technically proficient organist, no one could out burn “The Burner” and yet he still doesn’t get due recognition.

This album represents his masterwork, the one that first got him notice. While later albums also demonstrated his advanced ability to wring every drop of groove from a tune, the tunes are simply uniformly better. Includes his signature cover “More Today Than Yesterday.”

4. Lou Donaldson; The Best of Lou Donaldson, Vol. 2 (1967-1970)
Underrated depending on who you ask. Jazz purists derided Lou’s sixties works as being lazy excercises in long vamps. But Donaldson was undeniably funky and nobody touched him in that area until the Meters came about at the end of the decade.

But wait, Lou is a sax player, you say? Yeah, but it was Lonnie Smith’s wailing organ combined with Idris Muhammad’s deep-in-the-pocket rhythms that made these tracks gospel for legions of young jam band musicians of the last decade or so.

5. Big John Patton; The Best of “Big” John Patton: The Organization! (1960’s-1970’s, rel. 1995)
A nice compilation of Big John’s best, but alas, it’s only available domestically in the U.K. A shame, because this pulls some tracks from albums still in the vault, and includes his recordings with Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, and later, guitarist James Blood Ulmer. If you come across it, better pick it up.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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