Album of the Week: The Lyman Woodard Organization’s Saturday Night Special (1975)

Sheeeeeeeit.

I got into a lot of organ jazz over the past year, and next to Moon Rappin’ my greatest single discovery in that time may be The Lyman Woodard Organization’s Saturday Night Special. Woodard was a keyboardist in Detroit who was apparently inspired to play the Hammond B3 after hearing Jimmy Smith on the radio. Perhaps the premiere jazz organist of all-time, Smith’s influence could only be positive. And so it was that Woodard eventually came to create a classic album of his own under the Organization moniker.

The “saturday night special”, as you may know, is a cheap handgun, like the one seen on this album cover. However, there’s nothing cheap or particularly violent about this album. Most of Saturday Night Special is relaxing as hell, guided by L.W.’s swirling B3. “Joy Road” is smooth as silk, an early standout. “Belle Island Daze” transitions into a percussion-filled jam before Woodward brings it back home with a winning organ melody. “Cheeba” features some rippin’ guitar vamping before “the bongo boys” (a name I made up) storm the track in the album’s most chaotic moment.

“Creative Musicians” is arguably the record’s one misfire, a schmaltzy vocal tune that doesn’t quite fit. At under 3 minutes, though, it isn’t really much to complain about. As is often the case, the first side of this record outdoes the second, but “Help Me Get Away” ends things on a high note with Metheny-like licks and more bongos. The streaming version of Saturday Night Special also contains some added bonuses, including a “Lost Alternative Mix” of the title track that squeezes itself in at about half the length of the original cut with a bit more punch in its drums. This album’s highly recommended for all fans of organ music or funky jazz.

Click here to listen to Saturday Night Special.

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