No matter how ardent a collector of music you are, there are going to be some brilliant artists and albums you will miss. One could say that that’s part of the fun of discovering music. Credit for our surprise gem of the day goes squarely to Bandcamp’s blog, where Ashawnta Jackson penned an article on soul jazz. One of the names mentioned was a lovely lady, Shirley Jackson, whom you see depicted in the cover art and her weapon of choice, a Hammond B-3 organ.
Jackson’s back story is impressive, as is how she came to focus on the organ. Let us let Ashawnta tell the story, quoting from her article which you can read in full here:
Organist Shirley Scott is another soul jazz pioneer. She played both piano and trumpet as a child (it was actually her trumpet playing that earned her a scholarship in the ninth grade), but switched to the organ at 18. After playing piano in clubs in and around her hometown of Philadelphia in the mid ‘50s, she began concentrating solely on the organ in 1955. As Scott told Janis Stockhouse and Wayne Enstice in the book Jazzwomen: Conversations with Twenty-one Musicians, the switch was very much a reflection of the times: “This is when Jimmy Smith and Bill Dogget were making the organ very, very special.” Organists like Smith, Dogget, and Wild Bill Davis were making an impact, not just on the jazz world, but on Scott’s trajectory. “I heard what they were doing with that instrument, [and] I wanted to play.” She would soon develop a sound that, while recognizing those influences, was solidly her own. Of Jimmy Smith, Scott noted that “his use of vibrato influenced my sound when I first started playing. […] We may have used the same registrations, but the thoughts are different, the improvisation is different.”
She is as good at improvising as Jimmy Smith or Wild Bill Davis, and I’d venture to say that her sound would eventually inspire bands like the James Taylor Quartet or Medeski, Martin & Wood. A true legend, and a fine reissue.