To be quite honest, I used to hate the organ. When I was a kid, we had this neighbour who liked to open up his windows in the summer and blast out this insanely irritating organ muzak for hours, scaring away just about any approaching summer breeze that had managed to survive its journey across the German-French border. It was one of those German guys, 150 kilos and all, who played one of those entertainment organ thingies, noodling through a trillion standards that he managed to reduce to the most nerve-wrecking basics. The only thing missing – and he got none of that in our neighborhood – were a large number of sufficiently drunk Germans in “Lederhosen”, clapping along as offbeat(edly) as possible. If you’ve ever been to the Oktoberfest, you know what kind of people I mean.
Besides having listened to some organ music when I was young – some of Count Basie’s organ numbers come to mind that I was definitely NOT a fan of at the time – I didn’t come into contact with the jazz organ until I had lived in Denmark and returned many times after my departure in 1982. One of the highlights of each visit (until the end of the 90s) used to be a visit to “La Fontaine“, at that time Copenhagen’s smallest, hippest and smokiest jazz club. A regular visitor whenever in DK, “The Organizers” soon stood out as the grooviest and hippest band, a house band of sorts. Besides that, my love for organ jazz can be traced to experiencing Barbara Dennerlein long before she reached worldwide fame. I remember seeing her play live, hired by a computer store chain to add some entertainment to the grand opening of a store in my hometown. Her band set up in front of that store and for two hours or more, not a single customer entered said store… they just stood in awe watching her and her trio grind out Charlie Parker tunes as if there was no tomorrow. What a blast.
I can’t remember when it was, but I joined the Organissimo jazz board when trying to find reclusive and rare jazz reissues became a passion. In the beginning, I didn’t really notice or really care that the Organissimo forums were actually run by a band, Organissimo (yeah, automatically deduct 10 IQ points for that oversight), and it was only slowly but surely that I caught on. Duh, you might say, and right you are.
Because I had given up ordering from the States, customs Nazis and all, it took me a while to get with the programme. At some point I decided to order Organissimo’s first CD, “Waiting for the Boogaloo Sisters“, and it blew me away (“This Is the Place“, their second CD even manages to top that debut) . Not so much because of the artistry shown, but because it just flipped my inner groove switch, a switch that isn’t all too often flipped. And that would be the result of artistry … plus a lot more.
Huh, you ask?
I’ve played a lot of music myself in my life and I could bore you to death with theoretical details, but what it boils down to is that Organissimo’s music is intelligent. It’s that simple. I’m sure you’ve heard endless streams of organ bands, in one setup or another, but Organissimo rises way above the organ sludge by simply injecting that intelligent musicianship that’s so rare nowadays. These guys don’t simply slouch down trodden paths, they give you that extra twist in the arrangements, they do the unexpected, they structure and they actually compose (eek). Yep, for anyone who’s a regular listener, a collector and fan who’s heard just about everything available on the planet, these guys (no women in the band) deliver on the IQ front. Majorly. And I dare you to say that these guy’s don’t have absolute command of their instruments. And then some.
Secondly, they are all tasteful players. I an age in which shredding every song to death has become a quality criterion and filling every empty space with a ditty or two has become commonplace, Organissimo knows about dynamics, timing and restraint. They give the music room to breathe and they build instead of taking flying leaps through the window. They rarely pull out all the stops, and they’re the better for it. I would consider myself a very critical listener, and all three band members, Jim Alfredson on organ, Joe Gloss on guitar and Randy Marsh on drums, work and play together as opposed to throwing out endless streams of more or less meaningless solos intended to give more head. This is a band, corny as that might sound. They play as a unit and I love them for it. It’s become such a rare thing.
Thirdly, they are publishing independently. I’m not so sure they actually want to do that (I mean, who doesn’t want that multi-million dollar deal?), but in my little world in which corporate greed has for so long been dictating releases and public taste, Organissimo is one of the growing numbers of refreshing detractors, recording and publishing their music on their own, scrounging together enough cash to put the music out there that they believe in. No compromises. Hell, they even gave fans the possibility to contribute some cash and be mentioned in the booklet, also relying on the people they make music for to help them put it out there (and it worked out well). I don’t know how many people are out there that couldn’t give a rat’s ass how the music came into being, but in my eyes that’s a very respectable way of doing things and I do believe that doing things that way in the ever-changing and convoluted music industry will persevere. Did I mention that one of the forum members designed the cover of their second CD?
Fourthly, this music is just pure fun. I don’t know about you, but whenever the weekend starts or whenever good things happen, I need good music to go with that feeling and in that regard Organissimo has actually been a permanent fixture right next to my stereo. That’s where I keep new or excellent releases I basically listen to all the time … so I don’t have to continuoulsy run back and forth between CD shelves and stereo. The reason for writing this entry was actually that I just noticed today that in that CD tray built to hold about 20 CDs, the two Organissimo ones have been in there ever since I got them. Believe me, that’s a very rare feat in my home!
A Hammond B3.
All over the place, and inbetween.
And Jim Alfredson smokin’ the competition with it.
Summary? If you want some (instrumental) music really worth your time and you don’t know which way to turn to find any, you’ll find it right there. And, if you are like me, you owe it to yourself to support Organissimo’s endeavour to put worthwhile music out there. So, head over to CD Baby, Organissimo’s outlet of choice, to actually put your money where your mouth is. Order the CDs and enjoy them as much as I have. While you’re at it, you could also join the Organissimo forums and find out more about the band, their tour schedule and, last but not least, get in touch with (as of today) 1368 of the most knowledgable jazz listeners on the only worthwhile jazz forum on the planet, warts and all.
Tell them I sent you.
P.S.: For people trying to avoid the customs Nazis in Europe, order their CDs through an Amazon marketplace dealer. I did … otherwise the CDs might never have reached me.
Note: The CDs are of course also available via CDUniverse, Amazon.com, and iTunes .