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The Electric Organs - Hammond B-3

There were many varieties of the Hammond Organ, some designed for home use, some designed for church use, and some designed for live gigs and studio recording. But the most popular variety, and the one still commonly in use today (if you can find one that isn’t too beat up) is the Hammond B-3. This organ has two 61 note keyboards, (manuals), sometimes called the swell (top) and the great (bottom), a variety of built-in special effects, (including "percussion" effects, several different chorus and vibrato effects, and adjustable attack and decay effects), 9 preset keys for both manuals, (the inversely white and black keys on the bottom octave of each manual), two sets of nine stops (drawbars) for each manual, a full two octave set of foot pedals with two pedal drawbars built in to the console, a volume pedal (expression pedal) built into the base, a solid walnut body with 4 legs and base, a built-in stool, and it weighed in at over 400 pounds. Also, it needed to be run through a separate speaker called a Leslie ), which also came in many varieties and sizes, but which was usually around six feet tall and weighed almost as much as the organ. To get a B-3 to a gig, you would probably need a truck or a van to transport it, a dolly or three to four guys to carry it, and then a prayer that you didn’t have to carry it up too many flights of stairs. Why, you must be wondering, would any sane musician want to take this piece of furniture with them out to a gig? If you have ever heard a good B-3, you would understand. A Hammond B-3 can all at once sound like a carnival, a big band, a horn section, a small jazz combo, a funk group, a percussion section, a flute, and/or countless other things. Adjacent is the essential Leslie Tone Cabinet


Leslie Speakers
Leslie Speakers designed by Don Leslie have experienced wide use with the Hammond organs. Sound is emitted by a rotating horn over a stationary treble driver and a rotating baffle beneath a stationary bass woofer. The resulting sonic characteristics are likened to a small-scale Doppler effect, but were intended by Leslie to simply resemble the constantly shifting source of sound among a large group of pipe organ ranks. The rotation speed can be toggled by a console-based manual or pedal switch between fast or slow to provide tremolo or chorus effects, respectively. The Leslie speaker cabinet's tube (also known as valve) amplifier gave the Hammond's tone a warm, naturally overdriven sound, which could be varied from a mild purr to a heavy growl.

The Exponents

Milt Buckner
Milt Buckner had a dual career. As a pianist, he largely invented the "locked hands" style (parallel chords) that was adopted by many other players including George Shearing and Oscar Peterson. And as an organist, he was one of the top pre-Jimmy Smith stylists, helping to popularize the instrument.

The younger brother of altoist Ted Buckner (who played with Jimmie Lunceford), Milt Buckner grew up in Detroit and gigged locally, in addition to arranging for McKinney's Cotton Pickers in 1934. He came to fame as pianist and arranger with Lionel Hampton (1941-1948, 1950-1952, and occasionally in later years) where he was a crowd pleaser. During 1948-1950, Buckner led his own bands and, after 1952, he generally played organ with trios or quartets. In later years, he sometimes teamed up with Illinois Jacquet or Jo Jones. Buckner recorded many dates as a leader, particularly for Black & Blue in the 1970s. Buckner died in Chicago, Illinois at the age of sixty-two.


William Ballard Doggett ( Bill Doggett) was born February 16, 1916, on the north side of Philadelphia. At age nine, Doggett was attracted to the trumpet, but his family could not afford one.  Bill's mother, Wynona, was a church pianist and his inspiration. Within a few years, he switched to the piano and was hailed as a child prodigy by the time he was thirteen. At fifteen, he formed his first combo, the Five Majors. While attending Central High School, he found work playing in the pit orchestra at the Nixon Grand Theatre with the Jimmy Gorman Band.  Eventually, he inherited Gorman's fifteen-piece orchestra. His career as a band leader was short-lived as he came to the conclusion that the field was over crowded. In financial distress , he sold the band to Lucky Millender and joined Millender himself.   In 1939, Doggett with Jimmy Munder, Benny Goodman's arranger, form an orchestra. Later that year Doggett made his first two recordings as part of Lucky's band, "Little Old Lady From Baltimore" and "All Aboard," released on the Varsity label.  Doggett returned to Millender's orchestra as a pianist in 1941. He appeared on the next eight of Millender's recordings. In late 1942, he joined the Ink Spots and became the group's arranger and pianist.  He stayed with the group two years during which he recorded five singles with them.  The next ten years, Doggett toured and recorded with several of the nation's top singer and bands, including Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton.

In 1949 he joined Louis Jordan, as a pianist replacing Wild Bill Davis. Doggett was a featured performer on many of Jordan's classic Decca recordings including "Saturday Night Fish Fry' and "Blue Light Boogie." Doggett credited his time with Jordan for educating him to the finer points of pleasing an audience.  When Doggett decided to form another combo he was torn with should he use the organ in a "pop" music setting.  Like most musicians of that time, Doggett felt the sound of the organ was sacred and should be reserved for a church setting. However, when on he own he decided that he needed a fresh sound to set him apart from other piano combos. It was an agonizing design, but he felt it was the right one in switching to the organ. In late 1951 he formed a trio and quickly landed a recording contract with Cincinnati's King Records.

With the dynamic, swirling sounds of his Hammond B-3 organ, Wild Bill Davis provided a bridge from the big band swing of the 1930s and '40s to the organ-driven R&B of the 1950s and early '60s. Together with guitarist Floyd Smith and drummer Chris Columbus, Davis set the framework for the jazz organ combo sound.

Initially a guitarist, Davis made his debut with Milt Larkin's band in 1939. The group is remembered for the double-saxophone attack of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and Arnett Cobb. Davis, who was inspired by the guitar playing of Freddie Green, remained with the band until 1942. Moving to the piano, Davis joined Louis Jordan & His Tympany 5 in 1945. By then, he had already attracted attention as a skilled writer and arranger. He later furnished original material and arrangements for both Duke Ellington and Count Basie. He was scheduled to record his arrangement of "April in Paris" with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1955, but was unable to make it to the recording sessions. Recorded without his participation, the tune went on to be a Top 30 pop hit. Intrigued by the organ playing of Fats Waller and Count Basie, Davis began to experiment with the Hammond B-3. He soon developed his unique approach. "I thought of (the organ) as a replacement in clubs for a big band," he said during a late-'80s interview. Although he left Jordan's band after five years to form his own trio, Davis periodically returned to play special engagements. Although eclipsed by succeeding jazz organists, including Jimmy Smith and Bill Doggett in the late '50s, and Booker T. Jones in the '60s, Davis remained active until his death from a heart attack in August 1995. His summer appearances in Atlantic City, New Jersey were an annual treat for almost three decades.  A native of Moorestown, New Jersey, Davis studied music at Tuskegee University and Wiley College in Texas. ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide

Jimmy Smith was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1925. Both of his parents were pianists, and his father became his primary teacher, although he admitted to Leonard Feather that Bud Powell in neighbouring Willow Grove also had an impact.  A prodigy who won a Major Bowes contest in 1935, Smith quickly gained experience working throughout western Pennsylvania, performing on the radio in Philadelphia, and teaming with his dad for nightclub work. After serving with the Navy in the Pacific toward the end of World War II, he returned to Philadelphia and began formal musical training, studying harmony and theory at the Halsey Music School (Clifford Brown was a classmate), string bass at Hamilton School of Music, and piano at Ornstein through 1950.  It was while playing in the rhythm-and-blues combo of Don Gardner, who Smith joined in 1952, that he heard Wild Bill Davis and became interested in the organ.  This led Smith to intensive self-tutoring for three months in 1955, a process he described in detail to Feather: "When finally I got enough money for a down payment on my own organ I put it in a warehouse and I took a big sheet of paper and drew a floor plan of the pedals. Anytime I wanted to gauge the spaces and where to drop my foot down on which pedal, I'd look at the chart."  "Sometimes I would stay there four hours, or maybe all day long if I'd luck up on something and get some new ideas, using different stops. I'd eat breakfast and then take my lunch to the warehouse with me and stay there until I was satisfied that I'd done what I needed to for that day."

Jimmy recalls: "I got my organ from a loan shark had it shipped to the warehouse. I stayed in that warehouse, I would say, six months to a year. I would do just like the guys do--take my lunch, then I'd go and set down at this beast. Nobody showed my anything, man, so I had to fiddle around with my stops."   After numerous trials with various draw bar combinations, Jimmy finally discovered the sound that he wanted. "I pulled out that third harmonic and there! The bulb lit up, thunder and lightning! Stars came out of the sky!" Jimmy emerged from that warehouse a new and different organist with a truly original approach and registration. His new sound would prove to be the standard for Jazz organists who followed.
The Sermon

In the summer of 1955, Smith was ready to show the world what he had learned, and opened as a single in an Atlantic City club. By September, Smith had his own trio, and Babs Gonzales had become his manager. Gonzales wasted no time in contacting Alfred Lion of Blue Note. Smith was making his first New York appearance, at Small's Paradise in Harlem, in January 1956, when Lion heard him and immediately signed him to a contract.  While a downtown gig at the Cafe Bohemia that followed hard on the heels of the Small's Paradise engagement was also important in Smith's breakthrough, what really turned him into an instant phenomenon were his Blue Note recordings.  After his move to Verve in 1962, he had even greater commercial triumphs with Oliver Nelson's arrangements and guitarist Wes Montgomery. His success opened the door for numerous organists. In fact, Smith and his organ disciples created an entire sub-industry in the recording world and club circuit. And Larry Young, more than any other, would expand the language of the organ into modal and more experimental areas. Even today, Jimmy Smith remains the boss.

Moanin - Bobby Timmons

Brother Jack McDuff
A marvellous bandleader and organist as well as capable arranger, "Brother" Jack McDuff has one of the funkiest, most soulful styles of all time on the Hammond B-3. His rock-solid bass lines and blues-drenched solos are balanced by clever, almost pianistic melodies and interesting progressions and phrases. McDuff began as a bassist playing with Denny Zeitlin and Joe Farrell. He studied privately in Cinncinnati and worked with Johnny Griffin in Chicago. He taught himself organ and piano in the mid-'50s, and began gaining attention working with Willis Jackson in the late '50s and early '60s, cutting high caliber soul-jazz dates for Prestige. McDuff made his recording debut as a leader for Prestige in 1960, playing in a studio pickup band with Jimmy Forrest. They made a pair of outstanding albums: Tough Duff and The Honeydripper. McDuff organized his own band the next year, featuring Harold Vick and drummer Joe Dukes. Things took off when McDuff hired a young guitarist named George Benson. They were among the most popular combos of the mid-'60s and made several excellent albums. McDuff's later groups at Atlantic and Cadet didn't equal the level of the Benson band, while later dates for Verve and Cadet were uneven, though generally good. McDuff experimented with electronic keyboards and fusion during the '70s, then in the '80s got back in the groove with the Muse session Cap'n Jack. While his health fluctuated throughout the '90s, McDuff released several discs on the Concord Jazz label before succumbing to heart failure on January 23, 2001, at the age of 74. - Ron Wynn and Bob Porter, All Music Guide

Jimmy (James Harrell) McGriff was born on April 3, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, birthplace of many of jazz's greatest organists. He started playing piano at the age of five and by his teens, was also playing alto sax and upright bass. His first group was a piano trio, which found him playing bass in the band. When he joined the Army, McGriff served as an MP in Korea and settled in on a career as police officer for Philadelphia's finest, a gig which only lasted a little more than two years. 
Music kept drawing McGriff's attention away from the police force. His childhood friend, organist Jimmy Smith, had begun earning a substantial reputation in jazz for his Blue Note records (the two played together once in 1967) and McGriff became entranced by the organ sound while Richard "Groove" Holmes played at his sister's wedding. Holmes went on to became McGriff's teacher, friend and, on two occasions in 1973, his sparring partner for two Groove Merchant records.
In April 1960, McGriff made the switch and started playing organ. He was greatly influenced by the energy and dynamics of organist Milt Buckner and the diplomatic aplomb of Count Basie. But such local pianists as Sonny Gatewood, Howard Whaley and Austin Mitchell held his favor too. McGriff formed a combo that played around Philadelphia and often featured upcoming tenor sax player, Charles Earland, who soon switched permanently to organ when he saw how much fun McGriff was having at the organ. During this time, McGriff also accompanied such artists as Don Gardner, Arthur Prysock, Candido and Carmen McRae who came through town for local club dates.
In 1961, McGriff's trio was offered the chance to record an instrumental version of Ray Charles's hit "I've Got A Woman" by Joe Lederman's Jell Records, a small independent label. When the record received substantial local airplay, Juggy Murray's Sue label picked it up and recorded a full album of McGriff's trio, released in 1962. The album also turned out another huge hit in McGriff's "All About My Girl," firmly establishing McGriff's credentials as a fiery blues-based organist, well-versed in gospel soul and fatback groove.

Joey DeFrancesco
The greatest Hammond organ player in jazz today, Philadelphia-born Joey De Francesco follows in a noted family tradition of Hammond organ maestros, having been brought to the instrument by his organist father 'Papa John De Francesco.  Joey's place in the illustrious Hammond tradition is also obvious from his association with the late great Jimmy Smith on two concord CD's: a live sessions from 1999 and his current release, 'Legacy'.  Joey De Francesco's career took off in the 1990s with John McLaughlin in the guitarists Free Spirits trio.  Joey's music displays an innate understanding of the history of the instrument, the jazz and soul influence of players such as Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff coming through clearly. A prodigious talent at an early age, playing his own gigs and occasionally sitting in with players like Richard "Groove" Holmes at only age ten, a defining highlight of his career was being personally asked to join Miles Davis' group in the late Eighties, touring Europe with the great man and playing on the Amandla album. He's credited with almost single-handedly bringing the Hammond organ back into fashion and a night in his company will show why
Fly Me to the Moon Video

Tony Monaco

On the road to becoming a first-class operator of the B3 Hammond organ, Columbus, OH, native Tony Monaco has had to overcome roadblocks.
The major one was a polio-like debilitating disease which forced him to change from accordion to organ.
Another was the demands of a family business followed by the return of the disease. Undeterred, Monaco has made two albums with his trio, Burnin' Grooves being the second.
He's joined on six tracks by his organ-playing peer, Joey DeFrancesco, who sits in on the piano. Monaco's playing exudes an exuberance that combines chitlin' rhythm & blues with gospel."

Big John Patton was one of the major figures in the development of the funky, blues rooted jazz style known as soul jazz. The Hammond organ was the instrument at the centre of that development, and Patton's relaxed, bluesy, lightly grooving style made a big contribution to the genre. In later years, he worked with the avant-jazz saxophonist John Zorn, expanding the perceived boundaries of his music in the process.

He was born on the Missouri side of Kansas City, then a major jazz centre, and taught himself to play piano. He followed his brother to Washington in the early 1950s, and began playing in the area, initially as a pianist. His became interested in the Hammond organ while working with rhythm and blues singer Lloyd Price, and set up his own Hammond-led trio in 1959.

He moved to New York and began working with alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson and guitarist Grant Green, and made his recording debut for Blue Note with the saxophonist in 1962. He was a member of Donaldson's band until 1964, then linked up with Grant Green for a time, and also worked with Johnny Griffin, Harold Vick and Clifford Jordan, among others, as well as more experimentally inclined musicians like trombonist Grachan Moncur III, guitarist James 'Blood' Ulmer, or saxophonists John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, best known for their long associations with Sun Ra.

He led his own band from 1963 until 1969, and recorded numerous albums in a soul jazz vein for the Blue Note label, which remain the most characteristic examples of his work. The arrival of more contemporary forms of electronic keyboards and the rise of jazz-rock fusion eclipsed both the Hammond and soul jazz in the 1970s, but Patton continued to perform, although he recorded only one album as a leader in the two decades from 1970.

The revival of interest in the instrument in the 1980s saw a renewed interest in his work. He recorded with John Zorn on the saxophonist's The Big Gundown album, a tribute to the music of Ennio Morricone, in 1986, and worked with the saxophonist again in the 1990s, including a new recording of his own music from the 1960s, Minor Swing, on which Zorn performed. His last issued album, This One's for Ja, appeared in 1995. He died from complications arising from diabetes, and is survived by his wife, three brothers, and two sisters.

Mike Gorman was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. After completing a Music Degree at University College Salford, he gained experience working on the thriving Manchester music scene. Mike moved to London in 1995, to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since then he has established himself as one of the UK's leading jazz pianists and organists, making regular appearances with many of the country's leading jazz musicians in London and throughout the UK. He has also worked with several prominent US musicians, as well as touring and recording with major international acts Incognito and Us3. Mike released his debut album "The Maze" on the label 33 Records in March 2002. The Album received much critical acclaim and was named Jazz CD of the Month in the Nov '02 BBC Music Magazine  Mike is involved with many ongoing bands and projects.




Barbara Dennerlein

Born in Munich in 1964, Barbara Dennerlein started playing organ at the age of eleven. Just a few years later, aged fifteen, she performed regularly at local jazz clubs. There she laid the foundations for her future career as a professional musician, which, before very long, let her rise to the circle of the few German artists with international reputation and become the leading representative of her instrument, the legendary Hammond B3. With her brilliant playing technique she created an innovative and distinctive style that opened up totally new musical dimensions for the Hammond organ, which in modern jazz had been ignored for a long time. Without doubt she can claim that she has paved the way for the organ's current renaissance in jazz
Above all, she is one of the very few organists who play a pedal bass, and is surely unequalled for her breathtaking technique."The pedals are absolutely crucial for my way of playing the Hammond organ. They enable me to create a very special rhythmic structure which cannot be easily imitated by the double-bass, since together with the two manuals I have a kind of "rhythmic triptych" at my disposal," explains Barbara Dennerlein.

Anders Olinder, Piano, Hammond organ, Keyboards
Anders was born in Sweden and came to live in the U.K. in the early 90's. He studied with Jason Rebello and began playing jazz, funk, blues, soul and R'n'B on tour throughout the U.K. Since 1998 Anders has worked with various musicians and bands in England and Europe, including Peter Gabriel, Pee Wee Ellis (Saxophone/Composer with James Brown & Van Morrison's band), Tony Kofi (Saxophone/Composer), Mississippi John L Watson (vocals with Jimi Hendrix etc.) Cameron Pierre, the Courtney Pine Quartet and Tony Remy.



John Medeski
ANTHONY JOHN MEDESKI. Perched in the middle of a small fortress of instruments (Hammond B3 organ, clavinet, Wurltizer, Arp string ensemble, Mellotron, Yamaha cs synth, Melodica and a piano) the 35 year old Medeski takes on the appearance of a mad scientist: arms flying, head bobbing, lips uttering alien sounds....all with the intense look of super-man exercising his x-ray vision. watching john play music, one gets the distinct feeling that he enters into a trance, a zone, a place far away from the stage and that his body simply serves as a conduit translating the sights, sounds and emotions of places and spaces from other galaxies. Medeski is conscious of this phenomenon, "it just happens -another world - I don't know where it comes from" and has been a visitor to this planet from a very early age.

Mike Carr

Ruth Hammond
I remember playing music from a very early age and my lovely mum and dad encouraged me in a non-scary way. Me and my sis played duets on the piano - it was all very idyllic : - )
I've always been extremely fortunate with the music teachers I've had, starting with a brilliant piano teacher of the quirky old lady variety. Her love of music was infectious and she always pushed me to do my best, as did my first clarinet teacher - thanks Mrs Amor and Mr Dunkley! They took me through to Grade 8 and then I got the chance to attend the junior department of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. During the next five years I studied with some of the top tutors in the country, including clarinettist John Davies and the saxophonists Tim Garland and Matt Wates. I was unaware of the credentials of these guys until a few years later, but they awakened my interest in jazz. I started going along to the training band rehearsals for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and was inspired at the standard of playing by people my own age.
At eighteen, I applied for the Jazz Studies degree at Leeds College of Music, one of the first courses of it's kind. I was accepted and set off up North. Once again, I lucked out and had the best possible teacher and mentor in the shape of pianist Nikki Iles,  who was a great inspiration to me. On graduating, I was awarded prizes for being the most outstanding saxophonist in my year and for the best overall performance in my finals. Just before leaving Leeds I came runner-up in the national competition "The Young Jazz Player of the Year" - which was nice!


Rhoda Scott - Hammond organ. With Barbara Dennerlein on HB3
The latter achieves an original synthesis in her productions and in her music and she allows herself with grace and joy to combine themes which are typically jazz, other religious, but also themes from classical music played in jazz.  A minister's daughter, brought up in the classical music tradition, and having attended Manhattan School of Music in New York, surrounded by traditional Afro-American music, how could it be otherwise?  This is what she demonstrates in her music. Thus it is not surprising to discover, other than her original compositions, well-known jazz tunes, classical music themes or French airs at the same time as certain Gospels or Negro Spirituals.  All of this comes from the essence of her personality and the unique characteristics of the Hammond organ, so original on the level of jazz music.


Jim Watson Born in Mansfield, Notts, Jim Studied at the Leeds College of Music where he obtained a first class BA Honours degree in Jazz and Contemporary Music studying piano with Nikki Isles.
After Leeds he moved to London,studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he gained a Post Graduate Certificate in Jazz and Studio music, studying, among others, with pianists Simon Purcell and John Taylor.
Jim Watson has worked internationally with a wide variety of artists, both jazz and otherwise.  He is currently working primarily with singer songwriter Katie Melua, and has recorded an album of originals with Marti Pellow(wet, wet, wet) He is also working with the BBC Big band and the Guy Barker International Septet. In total, he has performed/collaborated with the following
Oceans 11 (film soundtrack) Katie Melua, Zero 7, Marti Pellow, Lalo Schfrin, Guy Barker International Septet Gary Moore, Brand New Heavies, Joy Zipper, Incognito (world tour) US3 (european tour), James Taylor Quartet, Bud Shanks Patti Austin (Berghausen Jazz Festival),Ann Hampton Calloway ,Platypus' (Gerard Presencer), Jim Watson Trio, The Organ trio, (Jim Mullen), New York voices, Bobby Watson, James Moody (tour of Spain) Javon Jackson, Herb Geller, Claire Martin, Pat Kane( Hue and Cry), Jill Scott (Mobo awards), Dave O' Higgins Julian Arguelles Quartet, Omar (Montreux Jazz Festival),  BBC big band, Clark Tracey, Alan Barnes, Peter King, Jean Toussaint.
James was nominated for the 1998 BT Jazz Awards' in the rising star category, won the ˜Best Soloist Prize' in the Europ Jazz contest (Jazz Hoeilaart) held in Belgium in 1996,and was the overall winner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians' award in 1997.
˜Stunning young pianist'-1997 soho jazz festival
˜Classy jazz pianist'- Time out 2001
˜Internationally renowned' -John Lewis, Time Out
˜Convincing....His McCoy Tyner like percussive chords and torrential right hand lines was a standout' -John Fordham, The Guardian
˜Mellifluous piano'-Clive Davis, The Sunday Times
˜Inestimable'-Jazzwise Magazine
˜One of the most talented pianists in the country'-606 club
˜Acclaimed' Jars magazine Ronnie Scotts club
˜a real piano player’- Georgie Fame

John-paul Gard started playing the organ at the age of 10. Within eight months he had made it into the finals of the UK's best organ player. He continued to study the organ for another five years and was influenced by musicians such as Harry Stoneham, Alan Woodley, Mike Hall, Alan Haven, Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Tony Pegler, Jimmy Smith.

At the age of twenty three John-paul made a detour from the organ and decided to extend his knowledge of the piano.

He gained a place on a three year B.A Music Composition course, it was at this time that he had the privilege of gaining tuition from Jason Rebello and keyboard ace Dave Buxton.

International Archives for the Jazz Organ

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Last modified: 18/02/2012