Gene Ludwig
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Gene Ludwig


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"Soul Serenade Review"

Soul Serenade
Gene Ludwig (Loose Leaf Music)

Gene Ludwig is four square in the traditional school of Hammond B3 organ players and with more than 40 years at the console, he helped to form the tradition. His playing is relaxed, laid back, drenched with a mix of blues and soul. This comes with the realization that the organ quartet can be one of the most pleasurable listening experiences in jazz. With its extremely large range of tone colors and timbres, the organ expresses the full range of human emotions, from the romantic and sultry, through highly charged beat excitement, to soul drenched melancholy. This potential is fully realized by Gene Ludwig and his quartet on this appropriately titled Soul Serenade. With J. Willis and Don Aliquo sharing tenor sax duties and Ken Karsh kicking with well-placed guitar licks and drum accents by Tom Wendt, this album is falls four square into the organ combo domain of the better known but no more talented, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith.
The play list was put together to bring out the best this group can offer. On "You Don't Know What Love Is", fortified by the heart-rending tenor sax of Don Aliquo, Jr., they drain every ounce of feeling from this tune. In contrast, things pick up with "Freddie the Freeloader". Karsh's guitar gets full opportunity to explore the improvisional possibilities of this Miles Davis classic. The title tune "Soul Serenade" is the organ counterpart of Gloria Lynne's ardent vocal version of 1965 making it a highlight of the album. J. Willis' slightly honking sax gives this cut an authentic R & B flavor. Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night" is the vehicle for Aliquo to flourish his dexterity at running through chord changes. "Duff's Blues" is pure swing with Tom Wendt's drums getting plenty of attention.
Some of the younger B3 Hammond organ practitioners on today's scene would do well to listen to this album to hear how the instrument can sound with its edges rounded a bit. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Duff's Blues#; Freddie the Freeloader*; Please Send Me Someone to Love*; Soul Serenade#; Rejoicin'*; You Don't Know what Love Is*; On a Misty Night*; My Shining Hour*
Personnel: Gene Ludwig - Organ/Leader; Ken Karsh - Guitar; Tom Wendt - Drums; J. Willis#, Don Aliquo, Jr* - Tenor Saxophone
- Dave Nathan (All About Jazz)

"Hands On Review"

Hands On
Gene Ludwig | Blues Leaf
Track Listing: 1. Louie and Jazz; 2. Unit 7; 3. Groove Yard; 4. Willow Weep For Me; 5. Groove Merchant; 6. Groovy Samba; 7. Baby Don't You Go Away Mad; 8. Pete Kelly's Blues; 9. Layin' Back; 10. Have You Met Miss Jones; 11. Spiritual.
Personnel: Gene Ludwig--Hammond B-3 organ; Ken Karsh--guitar; Tom Wendt--drums; Eric DeFade--tenor saxophone.

Hands On is the fourth Gene Ludwig release on the Blues Leaf imprint since the former Sonny Stitt and Pat Martino confederate was rediscovered by producer Jack Kreisberg in the mid-1990s. Amidst an ever-growing number of recordings featuring capable Hammond B-3 organists, Ludwig’s discs always stand out. This time he leads an able band of musicians from his home base of Pittsburgh, PA. A wide embrace of material and moods enables Ludwig and company to avoid the clichés and repetition often associated with the soul jazz genre. The eleven tracks coalesce like the chapters of a well-plotted novel.
Befitting Ludwig’s decades of playing in clubs populated by revelers and serious listeners, the music is pleasurable and rewards close attention. The opening track is “Louie and Jazz,” his brash, R&B-influenced shuffle. Each soloist knows better than to bring things to a boil too quickly. Ken Karsh’s guitar lazily drifts above the persistent throb of Ludwig’s bass pedals and Tom Wendt’s drums before he snaps to attention with a combination of bebop and blues-oriented locutions. Tenor saxophonist Eric DeFade pursues a similar course and holds his ground, even as Karsh and Ludwig gleefully bounce chords off of one another. The leader takes it nice and easy for a chorus, letting every phrase sink in before slowly beginning to build, and eventually climaxes by means of a series of lines that gallop against the pulse.
It’s easy to get caught up in the sheer drive of Ludwig’s two choruses during the band’s blazing take on Sam Jones’ “Unit 7.” He doesn’t dazzle with finger-busting displays of technique; rather it’s the restless way the organist presents his ideas that gets under your skin. Although he offers guideposts like sustaining a chord for a few beats or repeating a phrase a number of times, mostly Ludwig dwells on a theme just long enough to make a fleeting impression, then immediately makes a transition to another one; all the while providing sudden spikes of energy.
Ludwig has always been an active, searching improviser on ballad material and his performance on “Pete Kelly’s Blues” is no exception. Working around the measured sound of Wendt’s ride cymbal, the thirty-six bar turn is filled with concise double-time runs and a smattering of smooth melodic lines and short pauses—as if the organist is at once running freely and holding himself in check.
~ David A. Orthmann <>
- David Orthmann (All About Jazz)

"Hands On Review"

News Observer Newspaper (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) N. Carolina
Music review - Jazz
Gene Ludwig, "Hands On" ***

By OWEN CORDLE, Correspondent

The way most reviewers tell it, the four basic food groups of jazz organists are chitlins, grits and gravy, collard greens and mo-lasses. Everything is "greasy," "deep-fried" and thick with "soul sauce" (and the writer's cliche meter is running).
The hall of fame for this style of jazz organ cooking includes Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Jack McDuff, among others. Then there's Gene Ludwig, a grade A contemporary you never heard of. This could change with the release of "Hands On" (Blues Leaf), a meat-and-potatoes disc that satisfies through and through.
Ludwig, a mainstay on the Pittsburgh jazz scene for 45 years, likes to produce motion and emotion in the listener. So he says in the liner notes -- and it's realized in his playing. Nothing strays far from a dance beat, and the musicians offer plenty of character and expression. The word "groove" or "groovy" appears in three titles. This, no doubt, testifies to Ludwig's basic rhythmic philosophy.
Ann Ronnell's "Willow, Weep for Me," one of the great bluesy ballads, gets a heartfelt (aka soulful) reading by tenor saxist Eric DeFade, who comes on like the late broad-shouldered tenorman Stanley Turrentine. In a similar atmospheric vein, the rhythm section plays "Pete Kelly's Blues," and guitarist Ken Karsh bends the strings a la B.B. King. Drummer Tom Wendt provides the deep pocket rhythm here and throughout the album.
Ludwig has an agile touch; he can burn without searing. (Check out the hot tempo of "Have You Met Miss Jones.") He accompanies with propulsive and tasteful accents. While his solos don't completely steer clear of cliches, they strategically incorporate the tried-and-true ingredients of the organist's kitchen.
- Owen Cordle (News Observer Newspaper)

"Hands On Review"

Gene Ludwig (Blues Leaf Records)

Review by: James Rozzi, Jazziz Magazine March 2004

During the 1960's, the popular appeal of jazz-organ groups was evident, and a cast of irrepressible B-3 bombers and tenor saxophonists spearheaded the craze "soul jazz". As time passed, some of the more talented organists began to explore tunes beyond the stereotypical funk and blues. Veteran Pittsburgh organist Ludwig is one such player, whose quartet capably moves beyond basics to cover a more sophisticated set list.

With excellent sidemen in guitarist Ken Karsh, drummer Tom Wendt, and tenor saxophonist Eric DeFade, Ludwig presents a well-oiled machine that virtually drips grease, but that's a good thing. This band plays cleanly, but the human element essential to the jazz organ's blue-collar legacy is intact in all its gutsy, heartfelt glory. One of two originals, "Louie and Jazz", is a classic blues shuffle featuring very mature solos by all. Ludwig and company handle the up-tempo "Unit 7" every bit as proficiently as did Wynton Kelly and Cannonball Adderley.

Interestingly, these four musicians exhibit very similar styles while soloing, with no obvious foils among them. Each man steps up to blow with a high command of his instrument, having obviously studied the masters. While Ludwig is a composite of every great jazz organist since the late '50s, Karsh's guitar seems to gravitate toward Grant Green. DeFade captures the essence of West Coast tenors Plas Johnson and Pete Christlieb. All the while, Wendt establishes a mighty groove under an exemplary group that's firmly rooted in the history of straight-ahead and bluesy B-3 jazz.
- James Rozzi (Jazziz Magazine)

"The Groove Organization Review"

Featured Artist: Gene Ludwig

CD Title: The Groove ORGANization

Year: 2002
Record Label: Blues Leaf Records
Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic
Musicians: Gene Ludwig (B-3 organ), Bob DeVos (guitar), Billy James (drums)

Review: After years and years…and years…of paying his dues and receiving too little recognition, Gene Ludwig has been on a roll of late, as he has released a new CD every other year since 1998. In spite of his work with Arthur Prysock and recording with Pat Martino and Sonny Stitt, Ludwig has chosen, for whatever reasons, to remain in Pittsburgh, where he carves out a career playing in towns like Greensburg or Monroeville. Having found his life’s calling in 1957 when he heard Jimmy Smith play at the Hurricane, Ludwig has played nothing but the B-3 since that important day, in spite of his 12 years of classical piano studies. Like all proponents of the power and persuasion of the Hammond B-3, Ludwig is fascinated by the instrument’s sound and is encumbered by its physical presence, keeping one of them in his game room and two more in his garage for the difficult job of transporting one of them to engagements.

Forsaking the quartet format, which normally includes saxophone, that many organ groups assume, Ludwig on The Groove ORGANization captures all of the sound and nuance and emotion with only three outstanding musicians, himself included, although the overwhelming sonic effect is almost an orchestral one.

With decades of experience and familiarity with the instrument, Ludwig entertains, pulling a draw bar here or increasing the volume unctuously there as the emotions swell. Mostly such effects occur on the ballads, like “Mood Indigo” or “You’ve Changed,” swaying and soothing in an understated sort of way--James brushing out the last-dance kind of beat and DeVos filling in the long tones with single-note movement--even though the listener knows that Ludwig could let loose with a furious, room-shattering blast if the mood so moved him.

Yet, even though listeners know the instrument’s force, which organists like Dr. Lonnie Smith use with astounding effect, Ludwig, as the title of the CD makes clear, is interested more in groove. Groove happens on “Pause For Fred’s Claws” as DeVos takes the melodic lead over a B-3-and-drums shuffle. And “One Mint Julep” develops as yet another shuffle, the placement of the notes different from the more famous Ray Charles version. Even “All Blues,” which certainly could raise the roof over successive choruses, attains its own groove immediately and stays in that mode, without ostentation or gimmickry as could be the case in the hands of a less experienced and showier musician. No, Ludwig’s interest is in the music, respectfully re-interpreting it to amplify its possibilities through the B-3’s unique deep-in-your-soul appeal.

The ease with which Ludwig and DeVos play “Billie’s Bounce” brushes technique aside as an element of performing that they mastered long ago. Instead, they want the listener to enjoy the elevating spirit of the tune itself, not to mention delving into swinging solos, quotes aplenty, over the changes, the musician and his instrument becoming joined means of expression.

The fact the Ludwig continues to perform in Pittsburgh and Hank Marr in Columbus, not to mention the fact that Dr. Lonnie Smith spent many years in virtual exile in Fort Lauderdale, makes you wonder how many organists are out there, gigging in local clubs or playing for local events without national exposure. Fortunately, for himself and for all of us, Gene Ludwig has received the belated CD distribution that he deserved all along.

Tracks: Chitlins Con Carne, One Mint Julep, Step Lightly, Mood Indigo, Pause For Fred’s Claws, Billie’s Bounce, Sugar, All Blues, You’ve Changed, It’s You Or No One

Reviewed by: Don Williamson
- Don Williamson (All About Jazz)

"The Groove Organization Review"

The Groove ORGANization
Gene Ludwig
Genre – Jazz


Pittsburgh is known as a spawning ground for prominent jazz artists. While many left to try their hand in New York City or the recording studios of Hollywood and Los Angeles, some stayed behind to keep the jazz flame burning brightly. Hammond B3 master and Jimmy Smith disciple Gene Ludwig is one of those who remained keeping the flame lit with his burning organ play. Working within a rather uncommon trio configuration of organ, guitar and drums, Ludwig, with the help from his friends, applies that special jazz/blues/soul sound only the Hammond can create, to a mixed play list of ten tunes. The listener gets a good feel for the shape this session will take from the album’s opening cut – a spicy, down-home “Chitlins Con Carne” which lays the foundation for the passionate playing that characterizes this CD. Bob DeVos’ medium-amped guitar shares the spotlight with Ludwig on this cut, as well as on several others. As much as any instrument and more than most, the Hammond gives the impression that the playing is spontaneous rather than arranged, especially when in the hands of an expert like Ludwig. Listen to him explore another master of jazz-soul, Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” and then segue into an understated (or at least as understated as one can get on the organ) rendition of Miles Davis’ “All Blues”. “You’ve Changed” brings to the fore romantic ballad capabilities as Ludwig gives this warhorse a delicate, melodic, resonant interpretation. The Groove ORGANization is Ludwig’s seventh album as a leader and is among his finest. In addition to a stimulating personal statement, the album goes a long way to assure that the Hammond organ will continue to be an enduring instrumental voice in jazz.

Highly Recommended – Dave Nathan (All Music Guide)
- Dave Nathan (All Music Guide)

"Live In Las Vegas Review"

Live in Las Vegas (Bluesleaf Records)
Gene Ludwig

by George Harris for All About Jazz, March 2006

"Live in Las Vegas" is a definitive release of good old "soul-jazz". Featuring Gene Ludwig and his venerable B-3, along with excellent support from Joe Lano (guitar), Tommy Check (drums) and Emedin (percussion), the band serves a feast of down home, feel good music that will stick to your ribs. The band takes songs like Monk's idiosyncratic "Well You Needn't" and drives it like a runaway locomotive. Throwing in quotes from songs like "Salt Peanuts", Ludwig is out to have a good time. Lano's guitar work is just what the doctor ordered. Pushed by Check's drums on "Just Friends", Ludwig conjures up a delectable mix with the organ with stunning interplay, weaving the strings and breathy B-3 chords to perfection. Ludwig's bel canto opening of "Flamingo", with the gentle ride cymbal and delicate dancing guitar work, is simply marvelous. There are no pretensions of grandeur on "Live in Las Vegas". As demonstrated on Horace Silver's funk-filled and groovin' "The Preacher", Ludwig's band wants you to sit down, relax and blow the blues away. Not a bad way to end a tough day! "Live in Las Vegas" is probably the best bet in town.
- George Harris (All About Jazz)

"Performance Review"

Arts & Entertainment
Posted on Sun, Aug. 28, 2005

New Recordings

Gene Ludwig
Hands On
(Blues Leaf ***)

The Pittsburgh-based Gene Ludwig, who played Philly's Zanzibar Blue this month, remains a formidable cat of the stun-and-gun jazz-organ school. Whether it's slinky grooves or moments of pure takeoff, Ludwig and his quartet are proficient at this nasty and necessary art.

The CD ranks as pretty conventional, winding through some new tunes and chestnuts, including Carl Perkins' "Groove Yard" as if it were 1965. But this combo delivers on funky flourishes and an intimacy with the blues that the genre demands.

Guitarist Ken Karsh puts up some powerful twangs on "Willow Weep for Me," while saxophonist Eric DeFade and drummer Tom Wendt round out the able quartet.

- Karl Stark
- Karl Stark (Philadelphia Enquirer newspaper)

"Double Exposure Review (with Cecil Brooks III)"

An On-line Music Journal (Issue May 2006)

Moment's Notice
Recent CDs Briefly Reviewed by Bill Shoemaker

Cecil Brooks III with Gene Ludwig
Double Exposure
Savant SCD 2072

For B-3 nuts, the return of Gene Ludwig is the best thing to have happened since Melvin Rhyne resurfaced on a series of Criss Cross CDs more than a decade ago. Ludwig came up in a strong Pittsburgh scene in the early 1960s, which led to work with veterans like Sonny Stitt and up-and-comers like Pat Martino. His near miss came in the form of an Atlantic 45 that was unfortunately released the week of the Kennedy assassination. It’s been over a quarter-century since the release of Now’s The Time, his sole Muse LP. Kudos to drummer Cecil Brooks III for putting Ludwig in a heads up setting that really tests every aspect of his playing. Ludwig has it all: monster chops; mastery of the dramatic; a fully realized four-limb approach. The set is heavy on lounge repertoire, much of it taken at an almost maniacal tempo. He romps on “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and gallops through “On The Trail.” Despite the title referencing the late ‘70s meeting of Joe Chambers and Larry Young for Muse, the album has a decidedly mid-century feel, for which both Brooks the producer and the drummer deserve credit. This album, coming so soon after his appearance on the recent Jimmy Ponder album, What’s New (High Note), is reason to think that Gene Ludwig is at the start of a second wind.
- Bill Shoemaker (Point Of Departure Music Journal)

"Live In Las Vegas Review"

Gene Ludwig (Blues Leaf Records)
Review by: Owen Cordle for JazzTimes Magazine, May 2006

Recorded at the Blue Note in Las Vegas, this album catches veteran organist Gene Ludwig in superb form. His sense of time is a lesson in swing. Momentum builds as he paces his lines over a steady groove. The performances feel good - food for the soul. "Love For Sale" gets things off to a fast start. "Just Friends" cooks with a bounce. "Flamingo" and "Portrait of Jennie" are good for slow dancing. The gospel blues of "The Preacher" contains many hallelujah choruses. So it goes - straightahead, in the tradition. Guitarist Joe Lano, drummer Tommy Check and guest percussionist Emedin Rivera assist the leader. Check's crisp exchanges cap an uptempo "Well You Needn't". Lano's warm, mellow tone and lyrical, rhythmic solos compliment the ensemble throughout the album.

Another good one from a master. - Owen Cordle (JazzTimes Magazine)


45 RPM

STICKS AND STONES (parts 1 & 2) - 1963
THE VAMP - 1965
MY WAY (parts 1 & 2) - 1971
THE STREET PREACHER (parts 1 & 2) - 1987




HOT ORGAN - 1966 (repackage of ORGAN OUT LOUD)


HANDS ON - 2003





Some say he stole the show that night... the fella from Pittsburgh who showed up late that afternoon, missing the sound check and sort of looking like anyone's junior high math teacher as he strolled around backstage at the 1994 Newark Jazz Organ Jam waiting for his turn to play. As I introduced myself to him, I remember his hands being huge, reminding me of what a bricklayer's hands might be like: long, thick fingers and wide palms. I had looked forward to meeting Gene Ludwig in person. I was trying so hard to be impartial as I listened to each organist who played that night but deep down I, too, felt that
Gene grooved harder than the others... I really do love everybody that sits at that bench... no matter who they are or what kind of music they play... but somehow, those who reach the audience quicker and with the most passion, leave me with the more lasting impression. It didn't take me long to figure out what Gene did to that crowd that night to get the response that he got and win over so many new fans: HE PLAYED THE BLUES... That's what those folks came to hear. They wanted to be taken back in time to the old days of the 'Organ Rooms' where every club had a B-3 on the stage and smokey, inner city soul jazz was the gravy of life. When Gene kicked off with Jimmy Smith's 'The Sermon', he was telling that crowd that there's still truth in this music... it hasn't left us and never will... and more importantly, he wasn't afraid to play Jimmy's sound. As an admitted disciple, he was reminding us just how important this is to us all. Gene Ludwig has always been that kind of a player. He knows where he came from and how he got where he is... no frills, nothing pretentious... just SOLID ORGAN GROOVE... That's Gene Ludwig.

Gene was born in Twin Rocks, Pennsylvania on September 4, 1937. Four years later his family moved to Swissvale where Gene spent most of his youth and graduated from Swissvale High in 1955. His mother provided young Gene with piano lessons as early as the first grade and witnessed his musical growth from then on. She would have preferred that he became a concert pianist but soon realized that his musical preference lay in Rhythm and Blues. After two years at Edinboro State Teachers College and a series of jobs, he was ready to make a life long commitment. He had spent many a night watching and listening to musicians like Ramsey Lewis, Horace Silver, Ahmad Jamal and Ray Bryant at Crawford's Grill and the Hi-Hat but when he experienced Jimmy Smith for the first time his mind was made up. "From '43 to about '55, I took formal training on piano", recounts Gene, "Around '57 I met Jimmy Smith and heard the Hammond...and I knew that's what I wanted to be: a Hammond organ player". Gene saw Jimmy at Pittsburgh's famous Hurricane owned by Birdie Dunlap- truly a mecca for the Jazz Organ Sound. Gene was bit by the bug before he had a chance to know what it was all about. "Around 1949, 1950, I used to hear swing organ on the air and it happened to be Bill Davis and Bill Doggett...but all I had heard was the big, full, block chords and I was into piano and (then) when I heard Jimmy playing on the air, he was playing single lines like a piano player or like a horn and I said, 'Oh wow! ... This is amazing' and then when I first saw him play and I heard him live, my God, it was awesome, it was really awesome".
Gene's first Jazz Organ Combo was led by tenor saxophonist, Sonny Stanton. They gigged around town in places like, the Hi-Hat on the Northside, Mason's in the Hill, Tropics in Braddock and Dave's Walnut Inn in McKeesport. They traveled to Cleveland before Gene switched to another quartet led by Gene Barr. This group ventured out even further going to St. Louis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Buffalo. By this time, Gene's musical career was firmly rooted in the organ genre. "Once I started playing organ, that was about 1958, I sort of shied away from the piano because I wanted to put all my efforts into the organ and for all of, I'd say, twenty or twenty-five years, my main forte was the organ up until about ten years ago". Making the switch from piano to organ was easy for Gene. "Originally, I started out on an M-100 which is like a spinet Hammond and the left hand bass left a lot to be I had to play the little cluster of pedals there, thirteen pedals, just an octave. That's where I weaned myself until I got to a bigger organ; then I got to a much bigger, broader, fuller sound...and it didn't take too much coordination, I just sort of naturally fell into it". Gene, like so many others was forced to take piano gigs and play synthesizers during the eighties just to survive. It's almost as if many of the great jazz organists from that era have come around full circle in their playing. "I've become very comfortable with piano now", says Gene. He, like Shirley Scott and others, can now be commercially successful with both instruments. Back in 1962, however, the most imp