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The New Cool: Passion for the Hammond B3

Ernie Sapiro Photography
Delvon Lamarr and his Hammond B-3.

Unveiled to the public in 1935, the Hammond Clock Company sold nearly 2,000 Model A organs to churches in the first three years of production. To this day, when I hear the warm, pulsing of the B-3, it sounds like gospel music.

In the '60s and '70s, with the help of jazz players like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott and rock groups like the Allman Brothers, the Hammond organ became a powerful messenger of soul and funk. For many jazz musicians of the 21st Century, the Hammond organ is reclaiming it's place as the backbone of countless varieties of soulful sounds.

In the Pacific Northwest, Delvon Lamarr has emerged as one of the area's favorite organ players. You'll find him playing in saxophonist Kareem Kandi's trio (twice performing in our studios live on 88.5), picking up gigs with a collection of top Puget Sound musicians, and leading his fantastic Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio.

The DLO3 features red-hot-and-blue guitarist Jimmy James, famous for his work with Grace Love's band the True Loves, and David McGraw's deep in the pocket drumming. Their debut album "Close But No Cigar" was released to cheers of joy last Summer, and we'll present a studio session with the DLO3 live on 88.5 Monday afternoon at 12:15.

I asked Delvon to share a few thoughts on his instrument of choice.

The New Cool: How'd you get started on Hammond organ?

Delvon Lamarr: I was about 22 years old. I landed a gig with organist Joe Doria and guitarist Dan Heck at the Art Bar. I was playing drums at the time. One day a drummer comes and sits in and I asked Joe if I could play the organ and he said, "Yeah, if you can." So I sat down and we played a blues and I played the organ like I’ve been playing it all along. So right then, I wanted to play that.

TNC: It's no piccolo, have you had any trouble moving this beast around?

DL: I played a gig at Tula’s Jazz Club Seattle on 2nd Ave during the Torch Light Parade. What I didn’t know was, there was a marathon on Western Ave which is on the other side of 1st Ave. I couldn't cross the parade and I couldn't cross the marathon,  so I had no way to drive to the club. I had to park on the west side of the Seattle Center and Kareem Kandi, Adam Kessler and myself pushed the Hammond eight blocks to the club, right down the middle of 2nd Ave, screws and bolts falling out along the way. After we got to the club I had to bust out the trusty soldering iron and put some wires back on and played the show.

TNC: You must have to be a Hammond organ repair man as well as a player, I guess?

DL: As much as I move it, I have to fix something on that thing at least three times a month. You pretty much have to be somewhat of a technician if you're gonna drag these things around all the time (not a lot of techs in this field anymore). Mostly the wires get disconnected. Bigger problems don't happen too often.

TNC: Technology must be getting close to duplicating the sound by now, right?

DL: Some of the modern Hammond clones (Nord, Viscount, Korg, Studio Logic, etc.) are getting pretty close. Especially the new Hammond B3 that uses a newer technology to emulate the functionality of an actual B3. They are pretty much a replica of the old B3 minus the heavy internal parts. But a lot of the Hammond sound is the Leslie speaker. There is a time and place for Hammond clones but sometimes it's more about the player than the actual gear.

The DLO3 performs live on 88.5 Monday, March 6 at 12:15. You'll find them opening for The Sextones at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia March 3, the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle March 4, and with D'Vonne Lewis' Limited Edition at Chop Suey in Seattle March 15. Their album "Close But No Cigar" is self-released.