Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Columbus has a remarkable pool of talented Hammond B-3 organ players. Bobby Floyd, Tony Monaco, Linda Dachtyl, and Nate Hollman are just a few of the organists regularly playing around town. But the granddaddy of the B-3 in Columbus is Hank Marr. Hank passed in 2004 and only recorded sporadically after the ’60s, but what he did leave is quite a legacy. Many believe his second full-length album, Live At The Club 502, recorded in January 1964, “is the greatest live album ever recorded in Columbus,” according to Columbus: The Musical Crossroads.
King Records - 899
In the 1950s and ‘60s, Columbus was a regular stop for the jazz greats because of its clubs, central location, and appreciative audiences. The 502 Club was one of those venues, located at 502 St Clair Ave on the near east side. There are excellent relatively recent reviews of this album in Flophouse Magazine and JazzWax. Remarkably, this album has never been released on CD or digitally, and only one track and a couple of clips are currently available online. Vinyl copies can be found, but can be expensive in good condition.
The musicianship is a revelation. Rusty Bryant’s sax playing has matured considerably in the six years since his first record came out. Hank is excellent throughout. Solid bass pedal work and terrific, unique tone. The fast, staccato notes he plays stand out.
Cincinnati’s Wilbert Longmire is a monster on the guitar. His first solo in Count Basie’s One O’Clock Jump is smoking. He’s got a clean, biting tone on top, but some dirt underneath. Love both his tone and his playing. And one of his songs made the cut in Freedom March, which has a rocking, Booker T kinda feel. Longmire would go on to record with Jean-Luc Ponty, Bob James, Bootsy Collins, and others in addition to his records as a leader.
Producer and King A&R man Gene Redd takes co-writing credit on the originals, which tended to happen in those days. He gets sole credit for I Remember New York. Hank and Gene's Easy Talk has a Van Morrison Moondance feel but does its own thing. Redd was a musician and arranger and his credits may all be relatively legit here.
The Musical Crossroads states, “at least a few of the tracks were recorded in the studio with crowd noises added later.” No matter, this album has the feel of a live gig including stage banter with the crowd talking in the background and the band yelling as they play. All the instruments have a separation and warmth that is remarkable for ‘64, whether live or not.
I got to see Hank a couple of times live, but I mainly knew him as the professor of my Music 591 class at Ohio State. I dug out the syllabus and a paper I wrote called Musical Goals. It’s interesting to see where my head was in 1994. “I may need to get a job until the band becomes self-supporting,” I wrote. “Ideally I would write about the music scene for one of Columbus’ independent newspapers.” Hank was a good teacher, but hearing this master musician talk about his struggles in the music business and teaching us about the “poor man’s” copyright, etc., really opened my eyes to what a slog a career in music can be, even at Hank's level of musicianship.
There is just something about the Hammond organ that I can’t get enough of. It soothes my soul somehow. I’ve been watching a lot of Tony Monaco’s live streams during the pandemic and I just don’t get sick of it. Tony’s such a positive guy and great musician, it just makes me feel good every time. This album does the same thing for me.
"We want everybody to get in the mood. Get to swaying. Clap your hands, stomp your feet, do anything you want to do. And children, let's have a nice time..." - Hank Marr
A1 Greasy Spoon
A3 Easy Talk
A4 Freedom March
B1 Just Friends
B2 Hank's Idea
B3 I Remember New York
B4 Up And Down
Cover – Dan Quest
Drums – Taylor Orr
Guitar – Wilbert Longmire
Organ – Hank Marr
Producer, Liner Notes – Gene Redd
Recorded By – Ron Lenhoff
Tenor Saxophone – Rusty Bryant
"Recorded Live At Club 502, Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 1964."