Organist Joe Bucci recorded his only major-label album, Wild About Basie!, for Capitol Records in 1962. It earned a 3-star review in Down Beat’s May 9, 1963 issue. Bucci (1927-2008), from Malden, Mass., worked in a duo with drummer Joe Riddick at the time. His work was marked by its easy swing and relentless bass lines, played on the foot pedals. His manager called that bass “the third man who isn’t there.”

Cover of Wild About Basie!

Joe Bucci’s Wild About Basie!, Capitol ST-1840

Organist (and accordionist) Joe Bucci wasn’t the only guy playing the Hammond B-3 in Boston in the 1960s. Hillary Rose, Fingers Pearson, Hopeton Johnson, Walter Radcliffe, and others were playing it in the South End clubs from the late fifties on. While all those players worked in more typical organ trios, Bucci preferred to work in a duo. And he was stylistically different, too. There was more Wild Bill Davis about him than Jimmy Smith.

Bucci’s big break came at the Agganis Arena in Lynn, on Aug 21, 1961, Count Basie’s 57th birthday. Bucci and Riddick opened the show for Basie Band. The Count was impressed, and he booked Bucci for a month in his New York club. Perhaps he also put in some good words in the right places, because Bucci landed on the program at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1962, and recording for Capitol. Joe’s Wild About Basie! presented an all-Basie program of favorites old and new, including “Splanky,” “Shiny Stockings,” and “Woodside.”

DB’s Harvey Pekar liked Bucci’s walking bass lines and the chords that sounded like whole sections of the Basie band. He did not like the brevity of the album tracks. All were shorter than three minutes, allowing no time to stretch out. “The results are pleasant if not significant,” concluded Pekar. “Bucci has an extroverted approach, but his work is tasteful, and he swings easily and is reasonably inventive.”

Bucci played all the local clubs, but his home base was Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike. When Lennie Sogoloff announced his jazz policy in October 1962, his first hire was Joe Bucci, and the always-popular North Shore resident was back an unprecedented 17 times between 1962 and 1969.

Bucci wanted to push the organ into a different kind of sound. With an electronics engineer, he customized his B-3, adding a string bass module, a set of vibes in a detached cabinet that he played from the keyboard, and finally a third keyboard, cannibalized from another Hammond, to provide instrument sounds ranging from baritone sax to banjo. Bucci nicknamed this three manual-keyboard organ “the Monster,” and it could sound like a whole section of the Basie band, a noteworthy achievement in those pre-synthesizer days.

Pekar wrote that Bucci’s “unhurried approach” enhanced the melody of “Li’l Darlin’.” That comes across in this version, despite the fact it has been “enhanced” for inclusion on an anthology. The anthology also states the band is the Joe Bucci Trio, but that’s only true if you include the Monster in the band.