It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
Norristown native Smith brought the Hammond B3 organ into the jazz mainstream. A year after he made his solo debut in Atlantic City in 1955 he was signed to Blue Note, where he began a long career working with musicians like Kenny Burrell, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones (see No. 24), Stanley Turrentine and Lee Morgan (see No. 9). While The Sermon is Smith's most well-known album, this funked-up live performance has some remarkable standouts, like the title track, which the Beastie Boys covered in '94, and a rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." The combination of the gospel-influenced Smith and preacher Green's hit song is a perfect match--and the R&B influence makes the album a natural Philly choice.
19. Pat Martino
Exit / Muse, 1976
The master of fiery eighth-note-oriented jazz guitar, Pat Martino has experienced many ups and downs, ultimately leading to his current celebrated status. A clutch of '70s albums burned his name onto the jazz consciousness, typically featuring his deep melodic intensity, flowing, logical lines and driving swing. While many cite '67's El Hombre or '72's Footprints, for a well-rounded outing, Exit can't be beat. Martino delivers a potently emotional "Days of Wine and Roses" and an equally gentle "Blue Bossa" before cutting loose on his own "Three Base Hit," an incendiary hard bop blowout.
20. Heath Brothers
Brothers and Others / Antilles, 1983
Percy, Jimmy and Albert "Tootie" Heath were eminent jazz musicians who lent their talents to hundreds of albums in the '50s, '60s and '70s. Essentially hard bop musicians who could easily navigate other styles, the Heath Brothers recorded a suite of albums together, including The Quota (Riverside), Passin' Thru and Expressions of Life (both Columbia). This final Heath Brothers recording featured Jimmy (doubling on tenor and soprano), bassist Percy and drummer Albert, joined by guest trombonist Slide Hampton and pianist Stanley Cowell. As usual, it's Jimmy's ingenious writing that gives this set its fire and ultimate get-up-and-go, but as with all Heath Brothers recordings (especially those of Jimmy Heath), the music is irresistible.
21. Dead Milkmen
Big Lizard in My Backyard / Enigma/Restless, 1985
Who knew the Dead Milkmen would be named by almost as many respondents as John Coltrane and David Bowie? The Milkmen were funny, punky and endlessly amused by '80s pop culture, which they became a part of with unpredictable live shows, self-released cassettes and this debut album. Though the Milkmen hit the mainstream hard in '88 with its heavy-rotation MTV video for "Punk Rock Girl," fans point to this album as the band's best. It includes the chatty "Bitchin' Camaro," the un-PC "Takin' Retards to the Zoo" and the PC-in-our-opinion "Right Wing Pigeons," which took Reagan to task before he was sainted. Sara Sherr calls the Milkmen "the band that made me proud to have a Philadelphia accent." "Anyone but [Milkmen lead singer] Joe Genaro," she says, "just sounds like a Royal Auto ad."
22. Dixie Hummingbirds
Complete Recorded Works (1939-1947) / Document, 1997
This South Carolina vocal group made it happen for themselves in Philadelphia, moving here in the '40s, where easy access to venues won them the audience their tight harmonies and impassioned readings deserved. The Hummingbirds have celebrated nearly 75 years as a vocal group, and recently got a high-profile turn on Bob Dylan's Masked and Anonymous soundtrack, but these early cuts are the reason we care. In these gently rocking gospel rhythms lies just enough effervescence to point the way toward pop
music, just enough pain to point the way toward soul music and just enough swing to suggest the bustling bebop of jazz.
23. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25