The organ in jazz is now a standard instrument. The organ trio is one to today’s hippest instrumentations. Groups like Soul Live and MMW can play in the jazz and jam-bands circuits. But before them we should tip our hats to one of the true founding fathers Wild Bill Davis. Everest has recently released a compilation Wild Bill Davis-The Everest Years to CD and is pact with the unsung giant of the organ’s finest work. Bill was born in 1918 and was originally a guitarist. In 1945, he switched to piano and performed with Louis Jordan and began arranging charts for him and others, even a few for Duke Ellington. Bill soon acquired a Hammond C-3 and made his debut trio recording in 1951. From there, "the rest is history."
The CD chronicles Bill’s stint on Everest Records from 1958-1961. The album begins with his final sides and ends with his earliest. The first five tracks are some of the hardest swinging sides on the CD. It was originally released in 1960 under the title Organ Grinder’s Swing. Grady Tate on drums, George Clark, tenor, and Calvin Newborn and Bill Jennings, guitars, join Bill; this band swings like mini-Basie band. Their arrangement of "Blue Skies" is fantastic and they fly over Benny Goodman’s "Flying Home." Tracks 6-10 are songs from the musical Milk and Honey (released 1961). They are not memorable tunes but trumpet virtuoso Charlie Shavers gives some very nice performances. The next five tracks are from the album Dis Heah (released 1960) and Bill is rejoined with Tate, Clark, Newborn and Jennings. Not only does Bill make the Jazz Messenges proud with their rendition of Boddy Timmons' "Dis Heah," but he shows us his softer side on the ballads "Angel Eyes," "What’s New" and "Round Midnight." We even hear a Wild Bill original "Wenkie." Tracks 16-20 the group losses Newborn on guitar, but continues to swing just as hard. The final five songs are all from the musical My Fair Lady (released 1958). These tracks have very little improvisation, but the playing and arrangements are all very enjoyable. Basie’s own Jo Jones on the drums; Milt Hinton on bass and Maurice Simon on tenor join Bill. Jo’s brushwork on the burning Show Me is worth the album alone.
The album is a great display of a true innovator in jazz organ as well a fabulous swing musician. Although the album is not a complete representation of his work on Everest it is a good start. Let’s hope they are getting ready to reissue a Part 2 soon.