Master Playlist

Legendary jazz guitarist Randy Johnston shares his favorite all-time Hammond B-3 albums.

When 60-year-old jazz guitarist Randy Johnston decided to relocate from Brooklyn to Charlottesville a couple of years ago, enthusiasts throughout the region had reason to be excited. Despite having at some point side-manned, sat-in-with, or been featured on the records of, as he puts it, “…every major organ player to pass through New York City in the ’80s and ’90s,” Johnston remains one of the genre’s greatest best-kept secrets.

In our April issue, we profile Johnston, who recently released a new album, Shockwave. Here, the artist shares his all-time favorite records featuring an organ. While not every album has a front-manning organist, when combined, they represent what Johnston calls “the greatest aspects of the organ-and-guitar-jazz sound.”

Read more about Randy Johnston in our current issue.

Jimmy Smith’s, “Back at the Chicken Shack” (1968)—with Stanley Turrentine on sax, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Bailey on drums. This is some of the most classic, swinging, satisfying music ever recorded.

Lou Donaldson’s, “Alligator Bogaloo” (1967)—featuring Donaldson on alto sax, Lonnie Smith on organ, George Benson on guitar, and Idris Muhammad on drums. I love this one because it has two of my former employers (Donaldson and Lonnie Smith) working together on an album that turned out to be a smash-hit classic. Still swinging, but getting funky too, it’s some of the most tasteful and tuneful stuff out there. 

Wild Bill Davis and Johnny Hodges’s, “Mess of Blues” (1967)—Davis is on organ, Johnny Hodges on sax, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Joe Wilder on trumpet, with Osie Johnson and Ed Shaughnessy sharing time on drums. This one features the best of the old style. Once you set the needle, it’s impossible to quit tapping your foot, it makes you feel happy every time.

Larry Young’s, “Unity” (1966)—featuring Young on organ, Elvin Jones on drums, Woody Shaw on trumpet, and Joe Henderson on tenor sax. The best of the modern style on organ and the blueprint for all modern jazz organists.

Wes Montgomery’s, “Boss Guitar” (1963)—Montgomery on guitar, Melvin Rhyne on organ, Jimmy Cobb on the drums. This is the most classic guitar & organ trio album ever. It has some of the best playing and compositions ever recorded, and a great groove to boot.

Grant Green’s, “Iron City” (1972)—Grant Green on guitar, Big John Patton on organ, and Ben Dixon on drums. “Iron City” has a very gritty sound where you can literally hear the music changing into a more rock-like sound. A landmark recording for sure. 

Shirley Scott’s, “Great Scott” (1958)—the Shirley Scott trio along with an orchestra conducted by Oliver Nelson. This one has my personal friend, Shirley Scott, playing in one of the greatest organ & big-band collaborations ever.

George Benson’s, “The George Benson Cookbook” (1967)—with Benson on guitar, Lonnie Smith on organ, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax, and Jimmy Lovelace on drums. Some of the hottest and grooviest jazz guitar, organ, and sax music ever produced.

Houston Person’s, “The Party” (1991)—featuring Houston Person on tenor sax, Joey DeFrancesco on organ, Randy Johnston on guitar, and Bertell Knox on drums. Here, Houston Person laid down one of the biggest tones ever recorded by a tenor; Joey D. was about 16-years-old (his dad actually had to drive him to the session); and I debuted on my first major label recording. Sounds real good, if I do say so myself!

Joey DeFrancesco- “The Champ” (1999)—DeFrancesco on organ, Randy Johnston on guitar, Billy Hart on drums. Just an extremely raw and energetic album of Jimmy Smith tunes. Every song was a first take. I’d never seen the music before and, in fact, there were no written charts!

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum