Wednesday, September 01, 2010

No Stupid Jokes About Organs On This Blog!

Please do not compare me to that infernal hologram from the classic Red Dwarf TV show (the ever-loathesome Arnold J. Rimmer, portrayed with panache by Chris Barrie) when I make the following admission: I really, really like the sound of organs, not just as rousing accompaniment for swashbuckling silent movies, but as good stuff to listen to (any ham-handed butchers I have winced through at ballparks and skating rinks notwithstanding).

That sound got me, even as a very young person (a pre-zygote at the time). I sought out the music of bands that featured the Hammond B-3 - The Zombies, Booker T And The MGs, The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Procul Harum, Sly And The Family Stone and especially The Young Rascals.

Later, as an obsessed jazz fan, I watched gaping-mouthed as Alice Coltrane conjured otherworldly orchestral soundscapes, impressionistic reveries, hymn-like chants and serpentine soprano sax-like lines out of a mighty custom-made organ.

The greatest ever to play the Hammond B-3? Arguably, the fabulous Larry Young (1940-1978). What he does here on his 1965 Blue Note Records album Unity - pouring out cascades of single-note runs with fast moving chords and nimble bass lines simultaneously - is nothing short of astounding.

I have been marveling of late at the Hammond B-3 centric soul jazz masterpieces of Jimmy Smith, Baby Face Willette and Big John Patton (many with guitar genius Grant Green on hand to stoke the fires even further). The groove can't be beat.

Is there anyone around today who can rip up and down the keyboard while tapping out ridiculously propulsive swinging bass lines with unstoppable happy feet? You can't overlook Rhoda Scott, who has been doing just that in playing the living daylights of the B-3 for decades.

In addition, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey De Francesco and Wil Blades can more than hold their own with the mighty B-3.

We close with Barbara Dennerlein, another goddess of the B-3. Swing it, Barbara!

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