Sunday 3 July 2011

My Top 5 Organ Trios

According to Wikipedia:
"An organ trio, in a jazz context, is a group of three jazz musicians, typically consisting of a Hammond organ player, a drummer, and either a jazz guitarist or a saxophone player."
Organ trios are one of the best units for a guitarist to play in. The organ and guitar sound well together - peaches and cream a friend once called it. The single note lines of the guitarist sit very comfortably on the chords from the organ without clashing. It's difficult (though not impossible) for a guitarist to play runs and chords at the same time. The organ can supply the chords (as a piano would) but the organ has the addition of the bass too. It's like a quartet with three instruments. The organ trio was great for clubs, notably in Philadelphia - loud yet intimate and low cost (not sure what the bass players thought of this).

This list is of my Top 5 organ trio, in no particular order, based on the ones I have listened to and enjoyed most - either live, on record or both. There are notable exceptions - Wes and Kenny Burrell with Jimmy Smith. Unfortunately,  don't have any in my record collection, and perhaps I go for a slightly cooler sound . . .

Grant Green, J.C. Moses, Larry Young by georgeheid
Grant Green, J.C. Moses, Larry Young, a photo by georgeheid on Flickr.
Grant Green, Larry Young, Elvin Jones
These are Larry Young's first recordings and they show him applying the lessons of John Coltrane to the organ, notably on Talkin' about J.C. from Talkin' About. Grant is inspired by the young organist on some of the last recordings he made from Blue Note before returning with a new, funky style.

John Abercrombie, Dan Wall, Adan Nussbaum
I've been listening to these organ trio recordings (Tactics and Speak of the Devil) for about 15 years. They seem to be inexhaustibly interesting. I've always heard echoes of the Bill Evans Trio in them. They take the traditional organ line-up and update it. Some great interplay. Long flowing lines from Abercrombie. Plenty of listening going on.

Dr Lonnie Smith, Jonathan Kreisberg, Jamire Williams
Lonnie is a one-off. His sound has a broad appeal yet pushes the boundaries and he has a great choice in side men. I saw this band at Ronnie's a couple of years ago and then ago a couple of week ago. They've come a long way. They work brilliantly as a unit. Three very different personalities working as one. Plenty of spontaneity and very tight. It's a unique sound. 

Grant Green Jr, Bernard Purdie, Reuben Wilson
It's a few years since I saw this band. Bernard Purdie is the one of the funkiest drummers in the world and this band captured the spirit of the early Sixties' chitlins circuit with the  grooviness of the Motown and Atlantic soul recordings. Grant Green Jr can't help but sound like his father and they they had a contagious sense of fun.

Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart
This has got to be one of the greatest organ trios of all time. These three do justice to the tradition and deliver the highest levels of inspired, emotive improvisation. I haven't seen the three play together but I have seen the DVD Peter Bernstein Trio: Live At Smoke. It's worth watching just to see Peter screwing up his face and squeezing out the notes from his guitar.


Anonymous said...

No Groove Holmes? He's my favourite, at least from the 'old school'. The best Jimmy Smith by a long way is 'Softly As In A Summer Breeze' and has Kenny Burrell on 4 tracks.

Of the current crop, Sam Yahel is my favourite.

John Clarke

John Harris said...

I agree John. Sam Yahel, Bernstein and Brian Blade should have made the list.

John Harris said...

Oh, and the "peaches and cream" quote was yours - thanks!

SR said...

a bit more than a trio but I've been listening to the Don Williams albums - Smokin and On the Up. Great guitarist on them called Geary Moore (has played with Dr Lonnie Smith). Organists are Joey DeFranchesco and Dave Braham I beleive. Solid, unpretentious, soulful, groovey stuff. Also has another fantastic guitarist playing called Wayne Boyd.

John Harris said...

I've checked out Don William's Smokin' on Spotify. Definitely has the classic vibe of the great Sixties' trios. A nice find.

SR said...

Unfortunate names for the guys as search engines get confused with the country singer and the late gary moore. I'm new to Goldings, Bernstein, Stewart so have been really enjoying discoverying that. mnay thanks for the posting.