Until quite recently I’d forgotten how much I’ve enjoyed music with someone playing the Hammond organ.
“The Hammond Organ Sound has been a basic building block for nearly every genre of music since its inception in 1935. Majestic, evocative, unmistakable, and timeless – only a true HAMMOND can provide it. Accept no substitutes.” Well, they would say that, so check this site instead!
I associate the instrument with good grooving, with funk, soul, a little bit of rhythm and blues, and quite a lot of jazz. My father was a great fan of Fats Waller, as was Count Basie. Fats was recorded playing church pipe organs before he got hold of a Hammond, a much more portable instrument. Basie, another renowned stride pianist, learnt about the Hammond from Fats. Thankfully, their recordings are still with us.
The great ear opener for me was Ray Charles. Around the time he was hitting the charts with tracks from Do The Twist (pic) and Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, in 1962 he recorded with many of the Count’s orchestra alumni an all-time classic album, Genius+Soul=Jazz. This was undoubtedly a great influence on early UK beat groups, such as the Rolling Stones (with Ian Stewart), Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Zoot Money (archive video) , Graham Bond, Ian McLagen (Small Faces), Stevie Winwood (Spencer Davis Group), Brian Auger … and the list goes on.
Most will probably cite Jimmy Smith as being a greater influence, yet Georgie Fame recorded Night Train a year before him. It is worth noting that Smith was probably the first ‘star’ on the instrument, and I did buy The Cat. However, when I went to a concert of his in London in, probably, 1966, I was put off by his arrogance – the modern term is ‘Bieberism’ – and even though I recognise “Smith’s virtuoso improvisation technique“, I haven’t liked him since.
During the 70s, 80s and 90s, the Hammond disappeared from my music radar. In researching this post, I found an awful lot of bland elevator music; you decide which track in my compilation I’m referring to. However, I also discovered a number of musicians whose music I am familiar with. I particular like Dave Stewart of Hatfield & The North. However, like the flamboyant Rick Wakeman of Yes, he tended to be surrounded by an array of keyboards and the individual sound was lost in the melange.
With the new millennium, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the instrument. In 2000, Jimmy Smith, then 75, recorded an album, Dot Com Blues, with several ‘guests’, such as Taj Mahal, who sang their own songs to his accompaniment.
I first heard of Wayne Horvitz when I was given a Bill Frisell CD, Good Dog – Happy Dog, a dozen years ago. Exploration via streams and YouTubes has opened my ears to new practitioners. The sound remains the same, but the music doesn’t.
1942. Fats Waller – Jitterbug Waltz
1952. Count Basie – K.C. Organ Blues
1962. Ray Charles – From the Heart
1963. Georgie Fame – Night Train
1964. Jimmy Smith – The Cat
1964. Rolling Stones – Now I’ve Got A Witness
1965. George Benson & Jack McDuff – 601 1-2 No. Poplar
1965. Alan Price Set – Honky Tonk
1969. Odell Brown – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay
1996. Shrieve, Frisell, Horvitz – Crocodile
2000. Wayne Horvitz & Zony Mash – Big Shoe
And that takes us to Adra Karim: his sound is different: the instrument has new horizons, and I look forward to discovering where he takes us.
I was at this gig..
Tuslah are Adra Karim, Hammond, Sri ‘Aga’ Hanuraga, piano, Elfa Kulham, drums, and Riza Arshad, synthesiser.