"Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today?" – various artists
Label M 495725
The Hammond B-3 model organ is without a doubt the most revered electric
keyboard instrument. In a legendary tale, Ray Manzarek – keyboardist for the
Doors – once asked Ron "Pigpen" McKernan of the Grateful Dead if he could
borrow his B-3 for a gig they were co-billing. Being the classic biker and
musician, Pig quipped that "there are three things of a man’s that you never
touch: his woman, his Harley, and his Hammond". Whether or not that’s
exactly how the conversation went down is debatable, but the reverence that
musicians have for the instrument is well-known.
It seems fitting then, that someone would put together a compilation to pay
tribute to this great instrument and all those that play it. "Have You Had
Your Vitamin B-3 Today?" takes the B-3 to task in a very loose, jazzy way.
Label M is a modern jazz label, first and foremost, so it only makes sense
that this would be the style on the album. I have to admit out front that I
was hoping for a little more powerful jamming and a little less groove on
the album, but that is more a matter of personal taste than anything else.
The one thing about the album that stands out is that it showcases the B-3
in both lead and support roles. In fact, a couple of the tracks seem to
focus more on the brass and guitar players than on the organists, which I
found somewhat puzzling. The very first track You Talk That Talk is a
good example. Gene Ammons and his band provide some great brass soloing – George Freeman even gets a nifty guitar solo – but Leon Spencer’s work on
the Hammond doesn’t really get more than 30 seconds of room on the track.
Shirley Scott does make up for it on the next track, Trouble with
Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax throughout.
The Mighty Burner is one of the more well balanced tracks on the
album. Though only a little more than three minutes in length, it has a nice
mix of trumpet, sax, Charles Earland on organ, and even includes Melvin
Sparks on guitar. This’ll Get To Ya is a track that highlights the
pedal fading technique of the Hammond, as employed by Jack McDuff. In this
case he’s backing Willis Jackson’s tenor sax. The haunting little melody of
this moody tune can get to you, but it took a few listens to finally soak in
My favorite tracks on this album are probably Jimmy Smith’s lively
Jumpin’ The Blues and the Lou Donaldson rendition of Funky
Mama. Both of those are a bit livelier the rest, and gave the respective
keyboard players – Smith and John Patton – more room to shine. Overall,
"Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today?" is a good jazz album, and one that
B-3 fans will surely enjoy. It doesn’t contain as much kick as some rock
fans might crave, but that’s not always what jazz is about. I would file
this one under "mood music" and call on it when the organs inside your body
instruct you to do so.