Healing Playlist #5: The Hammond B3 Organ & Five Albums that Changed My Life.
Each day I feel like I can walk a bit further and rest a little longer. I’m even back at the park with the hound slowly running up the Fort Greene Park stairs. Healing requires patience, though, and I want to break into a sprint because it feels like I can. Fact is, Doc says I need to give it a few more weeks and so I continue my quest to slow down, listen to more music and at a deeper level than I have in many, many years, and ease back into life as I once knew it.
That brings me to this week’s playlist: The Hammond B3 Organ & Five Albums that Changed My Life.
For those that don’t really know much about the Hammond, it was essentially one of the earliest keyboards created that was meant to replace the piano as the great American household instrument. Hammond designed and built a line of electric (with lots of mechanical moving parts) organs that he envisioned residing in churches and living rooms across the nation. At the peek of it’s popularity, jazz and rock musicians got a hold of them and worked their own magic with them. The instrument has an incredibly unique sound (especially when combined with the rotating Leslie speaker) and brings soul, funk, gospel, grit & grease to any song that features it. Their are countless examples from the Doors to Bob Marley’s Wailers where the Hammond B3 made it’s sound felt.
It’s not for everyone, but when I first laid ears on it (about 1992 @ my friend Alex’s house), I was totally hooked. There was literally no turning back. I had never felt anything quite as swinging, yet simple, and good (in that it just made me feel good) as the Jack McDuff record Alex played me that morning, The Honey Dripper. That was the name of that platter and it tops my list this week. Dig it!
Straight down the pike, old skool, swingin’ organ music & it’s done right! First time I heard the ‘Captain’ Jack McDuff, it was later in his life in Minneapolis (where he and his wife had moved just recently). The set featured a version of Summertime that was incredible. So incredible that I returned the next night to hear him again and what I discovered was that he played the exact same set. What I also discovered was that it did not matter. Summertime was even more swinging the second time around!
This album (along with Unity) is considered an absolute classic in ‘modern’ Hammond B3 trio catalog. The fact is, I didn’t know that at the time I bought it…I just bought it cause someone told me to. It was probably the fourth or fifth Hammond CD I’d ever bought. The other thing is, everything I bought, I wanted to study. The opening track on this, Tyrone, is a waltz that I went on to play with my trio hundreds of times.
Larry was a year ahead of me @ Concord Academy where we went to high school. He played the heck out of the piano and while I really couldn’t understand musically what he had already accomplished, I knew I was witnessing an incredible artist in the making. This is not my favorite CD of his but it was highly influential in my quest to master the B3. Larry loves the funk and took the B3 in a beautifully contemporary direction. And he still does. If you ever have a chance to hear him make music, drop everything and go.
Simply the greasiest and thickest funk you will lay ears on. Track #2, Tiki, will stop whatever you are doing and make you get up and get your groove on. Plus, his sound is so distorted and messy, jabbing at the keys like Jackson Pollock might approach the instrument.
This is really the only Sam Yehal CD that I truly dug into, but man did it change my view on the possibilities of the instrument. He is well versed in the history of the B3 but is absolutely not limited by it. And this record is well worth a listen top to bottom for two reasons: There are NO trow away tracks & Joshua Redman (on tenor sax) really has never sounded this good.
This list, honestly, is not complete and I’d be more than happy to share another five in another post if needed. OR if you want to email me: Nate@BrooklynMusicFactory.com, I’ll hit you back right away. Lesson I learned with the Hammond is that we truly never know what will inspire us so it’s imperative that we always keep our ears open. Keep them open and be pleasantly surprised.