When jazz education was in its infancy, who could have foretold a time when the oldest, best known, and most highly respected jazz summer camp would have a world class jazz organist on its faculty? Taxing credibility even more would have been a prediction that a Big Ten University (Ohio State) would have that same person as a member of its world renowned faculty. That man is the brilliant organist and professor of jazz, Hank Marr.
One of the most important by-products of the so-called Hard Bop era was the coming of age of the organ in contemporary jazz. The work of such important organ pioneers as Fats Waller, Count Basie, Wild Bill Davis, and Milt Buckner foreshadowed the rise in popularity of various organ ensembles, particularly the organ trio, quartet and quintet.
The instrument of choice for the jazz organist was the Hammond B3, which was developed primarily in the gospel church. In 1956 Jimmy Smith, more than any other single figure, made the music world aware of its potential as a vehicle capable of playing contemporary jazz; and by the end of the decade virtually every urban area in the United States with a sizeable black population and an active jazz scene could boast of any number of bars, clubs, and afterhours joints that offered an organ group of some sort as nightly or weekend entertainment. Indianapolis, where I grew up, was no exception. There were half a dozen local groups including one destined for much greater things, that being the original Wes Montgomery Trio with organist Melvin Rhyne and drummer Sonny Johnson. Visiting groups included famous and soon-to-be-famous groups such as those led by Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Johnny Hammond Smith, Groove Holmes, and the inimitable Hank Marr.
I first heard Hank Marr live in the early 1960s at the Hub Bub, Wes Montgomery's stronghold and one of Indianapolis's most popular bistros. I was already familiar with Hank's work through some of his early recordings on the Federal label (Tonk Game, The Push, Mexican Vodka) and on the King label (Greasy Spoon, Hank's Idea, The Marr-ket Place) which featured the legendary saxophonist Rusty Bryant. As impressive as those recordings were, nothing in them prepared me for one of the most electrifying performances I had ever experienced - a skillful blending of the rhythmic aspects of the jump bands of the 1940's (such as those of Tiny Bradshaw, Bill Doggett, and Louis Jordan) and the energy and harmonic sophistication of the post bebop language. Even the occasional squeak of the organ keys lend authenticity to the golden era of the B3. Hank's playing still elicits that kind of response from me and from the rest of his many admirers!
From my vantage point as a jazz educator, one of Hank's most important contributions is that of keeping alive the rich and venerable tradition of teaching and promoting the organ and the organ combo in jazz. In addition, as his colleague at the Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops for the past five years, I have also seen this remarkable man as an inspired and inspiring teacher; a warm, imaginative, sensitive accompanist; a brilliant lecturer; and, above all, a caring, compassionate human being.
Viva jazz organ!
Viva Hank Marr!
David N. Baker
Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman,
Special thanks to Jamey D. Aebersold and Jamey Aebersold Sr.
whose summer camps in Elmhurst, IL. and Louisville, KY the past three
years have made it possible to introduce the fantastic Hammond B-3 sound
to young and old jazz improvisors via three jazz organ play-a-long
1. One For Daddy-O (4:03) / Music by Nat Adderly. This tune is like playing a "Minor" blues, but with a "Groove".
2. Chicken Pickin' (4:45) / Music by Hank Marr. Medium electric slide dance tempo. Analogies of the great "Back at the Chicken Shack" recording by Jimmy Smith.
3. Emily (4:52) / Music by J. Mandel and J. Mercer. Medium tempo jazz waltz. Beautiful melody and chords to play on. What a treat!
4. It's 'bout Time! (6:33) / Music by Hank Marr.
5. Sweet Nancy (5:11) / Music by Hank Marr.
6. Amazing Grace (5:37) / Public Domain. Here is a different treatment of this well known tune, in 4/4! Hank gets down to some bluesy churchy preachin' on this one! Watch out!! This is a sleeper of a tune.
7. Home At Last (7:15) / Music by Hank Mobley. This is a medium tempo bossa tune in memory of Rusty Bryant who took him to hear Jimmy Smith for the first time.
8. Soul Eyes (6:07) / Music by Mal Waldron. Beautiful melody and chords. Gene Walker plays a very emotional solo on sax.
9. I Thought About You (4:05) / Music by J. Van Hueson and J. Mercer. A favorite ballad of Hank's played with a bossa/swing feel.
10. Never Let Me Go (3:46) / Music by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. This is one of Hank's all time favorite "Torch" songs. Great lyrics, melody and chords. The perfect tune.
11. What! Not Another Greasy Spoon? (5:42) / Music by Hank Marr.
Total Time 57:56