top of page

CHRISTMAS JAZZ PART IV or "I Want A Hammond B3 Organ and a Leslie Speaker Under My Tree for Chr

As my loyal readers know, I am a big fan of jazz music during the Christmas/New Year's season. Part of the reason is that Christmas is a sad time for many. You feel the excitement and promise of the holidays that you knew as a child, but when you are an adult you are burdened with responsibilities--bills, shopping, the fear of getting a little too oiled at the office Christmas party and having your picture passed around on social media the next morning...and the worst thing of all--getting stood up on New Year's Eve. Nobody to kiss at midnight. The worst. Here's a link from the Mayo Clinic on coping with holiday depression:

But not all songs are like Simon & Garfunkel's 7 O'clock news/Silent Night (below), a resonant plaint from my high school days:

If you want to get a holiday groove on, the best way to do it is find a specialist on the Hammond B3 organ, hook that instrument up to a powerful Leslie speaker (the speaker of choice for B3 specialists) and get down! In case you are not familiar with the unique sound of the B3, an organ created back in the 30s, you might recognize it in the sound of gospel music from AME and Baptist churches that didn't have a full pipe organ. Once people heard this sound, nobody wanted to go back to Bach! Check out this video of a B3 hooked up to a Leslie speaker. The rotating horns on the speaker gave the B3 a sound like no other. I dare you not to tap your foot!

For my money the most memorable pop tune employing the B3 sound came from Booker T. Jones in 1962 (though on a Hammond M3) with the instrumental hit "Green Onions". It was pretty much the coolest thing any of us had heard. Here are Booker T. and the M.G.s with that classic tune. The legendary Steve Cropper is on guitar.

But, back to the holidays! The best known purveyor of the B3 sound in the world of jazz is probably the great Jimmy Smith. There are others (some of whom I've seen perform live, such as Brother Jack McDuff or Richard "Groove" Holmes, or Jimmy McGriff), but I have to believe that Jimmy Smith was the best of them all. And I most appreciate Jimmy Smith during the holidays, when he knocked some holiday standards out of the park with his unique Hammond B3 stylings! Here are a couple of tunes for you to sample. First is the traditional Greensleeves, updated about four hundred years! Jimmy is joined by Kenny Burrell on guitar and Grady Tate on drums.

Above is a sweet rendition of Santa Claus is Coming To Town. Doesn't sound like anyone else's cover, does it? Let's wrap it up with Jimmy's simple and sweet take on Jingle Bells. Jimmy left us in 2005, but he gave us something that will get us through all the holiday seasons to come. Thanks buddy.

bottom of page