February News

big-john-pattonI’d like to start out Black History Month by telling you a little bit about John Patton, a jazz organist that I treasure.

From All-Music Guide:
“John Patton, often known as Big John Patton, was one of Blue Note’s busiest soul-jazz organists during the golden age of the Hammond B-3s. Between 1963 and 1970 Patton cooked up 11 albums’ worth of material as a leader and sat in with a dizzying procession of skilled improvisers, and his best work has since been compared with that of tragically short-lived innovator Larry Young. Patton also enjoyed a long overdue comeback during the ’90s when he collaborated with saxophonist and composer John Zorn.”

John Patton was influenced by McCoy Tyner, Larry Young, and John Coltrane with their use of quartal voicings and their modal approach to soloing. But while many of his contemporaries became increasingly free and turbulent, Patton’s playing always remained simple, clear and plainly stated.

He didn’t use many Hammond B3 tricks or effects- he was more concerned with communicating a logical musical idea than with filling a song with the swirls, trills, and squabbling usually associated with Hammond playing. He was able to voice chords in a way which made the instrument sound mellow and dark, but present.

I was initially drawn to John Patton because his compositions and playing were simple enough for me to understand. However, as I began to listen more closely his sophistication became apparent: his songs are almost always based on a syncopated bass line and often have shifting meters and odd forms. He uses a lot of call and response during the melodies, often calling for the right hand to alternate between the upper and lower manual. His melodies and solos are largely pentatonic and stay inside the key.

Two of my favorite albums of his are Let ’em Roll and Got a Good Thing Goin’, both still in print on Blue Note. We play at least one John Patton song at each of our shows, so if you’ve been to hear us play, you probably already know a few.

I hope to see you all out at one of our February shows. Take care!

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