Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff

Wednesday, Feb. 2-Saturday, Feb. 5; Backstage Bistro

Feb 2, 2000 at 4:00 am
Both alto saxophonist Hank Crawford and Hammond B-3 organ player Jimmy McGriff have established solid careers in the jazz world over the past four-plus decades. Crawford grew up in Memphis, learning his jazz chops from the likes of Phineas Newborn Jr., Harold Mabern and Booker Little -- and absorbing plenty of R&B and soul by playing in bands led by Ike Turner, B.B. King and Junior Parker. By 1958, Ray Charles had offered Crawford a spot in his band, and within two years Crawford had become Charles' musical director and begun his own recording career on the Atlantic label.

McGriff played several different instruments in his native Philadelphia but soon settled on the soulful B-3 organ. He learned from the best, studying with Jimmy Smith and the late St. Louisian Richard "Groove" Holmes and attending Juilliard in New York City. McGriff hit it big in 1962 with an instrumental cover of Ray Charles' "I've Got a Woman" and has been touring and recording ever since.

But despite their individual successes, something special happened when Crawford and McGriff first had the chance to play together at a 1985 benefit jam for a fellow musician. They found an instant, easy rapport, and because they were both signed to the Milestone label, they headed to the studio and recorded together. The result was Soul Survivors, and it showcased Crawford and McGriff working skillfully through a soulful blend of jazz, blues, R&B and gospel influences.

The pattern was so successful that the two musicians have gone on to release seven recordings together (including last year's highly recommended Crunch Time) and currently spend six months of the year touring. If you're in the mood for jazz with a heartfelt groove, this one definitely fills the bill.