Jack McDuff among others dubbed ‘the Coltrane of the Hammond organ’ – and he remains one of the all-time heavyweight players of this majestic instrument – expanding its language from his roots in Bartók and the blues, to McCoy Tyner, Trane and blazing jazz-rock. Adept at straddling any genre, he was part of Miles’ Bitches Brew sessions, Tony Williams’ Lifetime and even some one-off sessions with Jimi Hendrix. This is Kevin Le Gendre’s personal guide to the best Larry Young albums. You can also listen to Jazzwise's Larry Young - Hammond Hero playlist via Apple Music:
Solid early session from the organist that shows his command of the soulful grits’n’gravy vocabulary as patented by the likes of ‘Brother’ Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff.
Blue Note, 1964
One of the great Blue Note sleeves – the artist looking statesman-like against the backdrop of the modernist curves of the Paris ORTF studios – announced a futurism reflected in glorious music that broaches adventurous territory. Saxophonist Sam Rivers excels.
Blue Note, 1965
Arguably the jewel in the organist’s crown: an immensely influential album that showed Young adopting a more modal Coltrane-esque approach in places and forming a formidable sparring partnership with the wizard trumpeter Woody Shaw.
In the Beginning, with Woody Shaw
Not released until 1983, this little known Shaw album sees Young return the complement for the Unity session by appearing on several tracks. Most interestingly he plays piano rather than organ and sounds superb.
Heaven On Earth
Blue Note, 1968
Another consolidation of his growing originality sees Young unveil more excellent compositions backed by stellar accompanists that include saxophonist Byard Lancaster and a young guitarist and former Jack McDuff sideman called George Benson.
Blue Note, 1969
Although not issued until 1980, this is another fine set of originals that features a very different horn star to Woody Shaw: Lee Morgan.
Lawrence of Newark
From the sleeve in which Young is dressed as an Arab prince to the use of layers of dense percussion this is the organist, also known as Khalid Yasin, at his most non-western. Full of heady, hazy ambiences and spacious, spaced-out sounds the session is a post-Lifetime classic.
One of the key ‘rare groove’ albums that became highly sought-after in the 1990s. Hearing the go-to track ‘Turn Off The Lights’ in a packed club where dancers cut loose to the poundingly funky beat, while their heads were turned by the avant-garde synth stylings, was just mind-blowing.
A touch more rocky than its predecessor but Young is still on a serious funk kick that chimes well with a Headhunters-defined world.
Double Exposure, with Joe Chambers
Drummer Chambers had been a Young sideman in the 1960s and this is an inspired reunion of the two men. Here Chambers reveals himself to be a skilled multi-instrumentalist and several keyboard duets on the album are brilliant.