The Hammond B3 organ weighs over 400 pounds. At the height of their popularity, the Spice Girls combined probably weighed less than that but unlike 400 pounds of manufactured girl power, 400 pounds of funk is a very good thing. The electric organ is an oscillating, one-man band, running the gamut from smooth to shrill. Bass pedals allow the organist to provide their own funky low-end and when suited up with an electric guitarist and a drummer, the soul-jazz triumvirate is complete. The soul-jazz genre was a populist sound with compact performances and often recognizable melodies taken from the pop charts.
One of the best jazz organists and pop interpreters is Dr. Lonnie Smith - a turban-wearing, unlicensed practitioner of funk who released a series of backbeat goldmines in the late 1960s and early 1970s that defined the genre. Smith self-released a double album last year revisiting those classic sessions and, if it is possible, sounds stronger now. He will be performing this weekend at the Segerstrom Center's Samueli Hall. Here is a primer on some of the funkiest first-generation jazz organists.More »