Unexpectedly Familiar

Unexpectedly Familiar

Organ puts a little depth in jazz


“These are some guys that are taking the Hammond B3 organ to kind of different places, but his is a groovin’, soulful, bluesy, funky sound. It’s kind of greasy, you know? And it tastes really good.”

That is Robert Ginsburg, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society, speaking about Grammy-nominated organist Pat Bianchi, whose trio — rounded out by Paul Bollenbach and Byron Landrum — will perform the second concert of the 2018 KUAF Summer Jazz Concert Series July 14. Yes, an organist is part of a jazz lineup.

“One of the big things about organ in general is it’s probably one of the most heard instruments but people don’t realize it,” Bianchi shares. “Whether you like country music, The Grateful Dead, if you’re into R&B, gospel … A perfect example is people watching when David Letterman was on [TV], Paul Shaffer, that big thing he was standing behind was a Hammond B3. So people don’t realize you hear it all the time.

“And the thing that’s unique about playing a jazz organ,” he continues, “is that unlike in a traditional jazz quartet, trio, whatnot, where there’s a standup bass, as an organist, I’m playing all the bass lines with my left hand and my feet, then playing chords if the guitar player is soloing, and playing my own solos. So it’s a little bit different technique-wise, and even sonically is a very different thing. It’s almost like listening to a large band in a way because it’s such a thick sound.”

Courtesy photo
Grammy-nominated jazz organist Pat Bianchi performs the second concert of the 2018 KUAF Summer Jazz Concert Series with a show July 14 at Sunrise Stage.

As might be expected, the tradition of the organ is rooted in the church. Musician Jimmy Smith brought the instrument into the jazz mainstream in the 1950s and ’60s, but it would still remain a bit of the “stepchild in jazz,” Bianchi explains. The organ’s popularity is on the rise, though, he reveals, particularly with younger musicians who started on the piano and are discovering the joys of the organ — something Bianchi effuses at his own shows.

“The first thing — which is a philosophy of mine and then the guys in the band are like this, too — is first of all, we’re up there to have fun. And, it’s not a very tangible thing, but everything up there we’re doing is honest.”


Pat Bianchi Organ Trio

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. July 14

WHERE — Sunrise Stage in Fayetteville

COST — $30

INFO — 225-2306, digjazz.com, sunriseguitars.com

BONUS — Paul Bollenbach and Byron Landrum round out the trio.

Categories: Music