Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Jimmy McGriff: Greatest Hits [Blue Note, 1997]
In a world where Roy Ayers is counted a beatwise godfather by acid jazz casualties, the continued obscurity of this B-3 master isn't excused by his signature quote: "What I play isn't really jazz. It's sort of in between." Sounds disastrous, I know, but what he didn't say because he didn't know it is that he played funk, and not in the hard-bop sense. Early on he's still rooted in cocktail swing, although he has the populism to be vulgar about it, and as this collection cherry-picks its way through 10 '60s albums, both his attack and his uncredited rhythm sections grow tougher and trickier. By the end, well, "The Worm" and "Fat Cakes" may not be "Cissy Strut" or "Look-Ka Py Py," but that's the territory. And later McGriff was known to join forces with Hank Crawford, whose continued obscurity will be taken up in a future lesson. A-