Earlier this week we learned of the passing of The Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek. His oh-so-groovy organ solos were the stuff of legend, endlessly imitated by his contemporaries as well as countless drivers stopped at traffic lights playing air-keyboard along with Light My Fire (or is that just me?). Let’s take a look at some groovy organ music in our collection, starting with jazz.
If you want to know organ jazz, start with Jimmy Smith, an early popularizer of the Hammond B-3 organ. Manzarek’s preferred instrument, the Vox Continental, was originally marketed as a relatively portable alternative to the Hammond, which could weigh up to 425 lbs. For an introduction to his music, check out Retrospective and the laid-back classic Back at the Chicken Shack (available on CD or LP), featuring Kenny Burrell on guitar, Stanley Turrentine on sax, and Donald Bailey on drums. It also has an excellent album cover.
For way groovy organ playing, look no further than Richard “Groove” Holmes. This dude is the real deal. He plays the Hammond clean and funky, sometimes resembling the bright clear sound of Manzarek’s instrument. The live album Groove’s Groove sounds like what would have happened if Manzarek’s solo in Light My Fire went on for an entire album (if you can wrap your head around that). Well, that might not be a totally accurate characterization, but it really is a terrific record.
If you want to further explore jazz organ, check out the excellent compilations B-3in’ and Blue Funk: The History of the Hammond Organ. You might also enjoy the James Carter Organ Trio, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, the Ken Clark Organ Trio, Reuben Wilson, Bill Heid, Charles Earland, Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott, Greg Hatza, Barbara Dennerlein, and Radam Schwartz.
Next week we’ll look at Ray Manzarek’s influence on rock music and beyond.
Listen to This! is a weekly music column by Popular Library Music Geek/Reference Librarian Steve Kemple, featuring off-the-beaten-path music from the library’s collection. It is also a twice-monthly listening program held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday night at 7pm in the Popular Library Department at the Main Library.