Arguably one of jazz's most important voices in the 1960s, the Hammond B-3 organ, has fallen on hard times. As the proliferation of various electronic keyboards began in the early 1970s, the jazz organ has been driven to near extinction. New, younger practitioners on the B-3 have been virtually absent, Joey DeFrancesco & Davell Crawford, being the only exceptions that come to mind. Before the Hammond organ made its debut in 1939, there were very few keyboardists that performed organ jazz. Fats Waller and Count Basie had both experimented in concert and on record, but it was the Hammond organ that gave piano players a means of escaping the very unpianistic techniques and limitations that were required to coax jazz out of the wind and pipe organs that preceded. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, many pianists were doubling on organ, and some , like Milt Buckner, all but abandoned the piano. The organ's golden age in jazz, began with the formation of Jimmy Smith's band in 1955. Modern, innovative and experimental, Smith pushed the instrument beyond previous limitations in style and made it the most popular instrument anchoring trio jazz in the sixties. Players like Jack McDuff, Groove Holmes & Jimmy McGriff forged individual styles heavy on blues, soul and funk articulations. Every city with a jazz scene supported one or more havens for organ centered groups; in Louisville, Joe's Palm Room was home to various aggregations centered around the B-3 of multi-instrumentalist Boogie Morton. The organ gave jazz more crossover pop hits than any other instrument during the sixties. When Larry Young burst upon the scene at the decade's end, he firmly established the B-3 as a force in the post-bop mainstream. At this point, the synthesizer and its progeny became the instruments of preference, and the quick decline of the organ as a jazz voice began.

Sampling aside, there have been no keyboards that ably substitute themselves in the role of the B-3. The distinctive sustain, integrated bass and identifying sound of the rotating Leslie speakers are superior in every way to the ersatz stand-ins preferred in contemporary jazz.

Two recent anthologies have brought the B-3 out of exile, and showcased the talents of both old and new players. And a two organ session from Jack McDuff and Joey DeFrancesco might just signal the beginning of an organ renaissance in jazz.

KICKIN' THE 3 presents 13 tracks by 13 organists, each and every one a classic example of the power of the Hammond supremacy. Jimmy McGriff makes it clear to anyone why the muscle and dynamics of the B-3 are the perfect equal to a tenor sax as he and Hank Crawford cook up a fresh serving of the Ammons evergreen, Red Top. Ex-McGriff saxman, Charles Earland cooks with a lighter touch on the album's title cut. Jimmy Smith emotes a self-penned Blues for J. Groove Holmes delivers Misty, in a rendition that no mere piano could match. Monk's Dream gets the Larry Young treatment. Nearly every master of the Hammond is represented with an exceptional performance. If your collection is remiss in organ jazz, this is the disc to start with - no slack, no filler.

Longtime jazz producer, Joel Dorn offers another anthology , B-3IN' . The nine cuts by six organists that make up this collection are not as varied as those on KICKIN' , but they are tasty examples of soul, funk, ballad , and blues done up on two tiers of keys and the bass pedals. Big John Patton's Mean Streets - No Bridges is downright danceable. Groove Holmes swings with harmonic and melodic passion on Shippin' Out and Ellington's Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me. Perhaps the highlight of this compilation is Jack Mcduff's Walking the Dog, dripping with potent and compelling soul. Houston Person's group swings out with a lively uptempo shuffle , Heavy Juice featuring Jon Logan on organ. B-3IN' is the second best organ jazz anthology release in decades.

If the B-3 has a young lion category representing it, no one can claim top billing over Joey Defrancesco. IT'S ABOUT TIME pairs Joey with the venerable Jack McDuff for what may be the most memorable new organ release this decade. The two masters combine talent and experience to create intimate and virtuoso performances that will assure the most inflexible critics that jazz organ is alive and vigorous. With small groups providing rhythm accompaniment , most of the tracks found here conjure aural images of big bands. The charts are a virtual Joy of Cooking. Pork Chops & Pasta seethes with spice and heat. It's impossible to eschew an involuntary swaying , when listening to the dual organs interpret Percy Mayfield's Please Send Me Someone To Love. Tin Pan Alley and Broadway numbers, like Secret Love and The Most Beautiful Girl In The World are fresh and enduring when given the McDuff/DeFrancesco treatment. Four McDuff originals illuminate the great characteristic styles of the organ's golden age. Funk Pie is prototypic funk done up with all the stops pulled (pun intended). Black

Jack finds both organs on cruise control well beyond the legal speed limit. The groove on Rock Candy is fresh, forceful and quintessentially bouncy. If you are obstinate in your animosity to jazz organ buy this one and convert.