Seattle organist Delvon Lamarr brings serious funk to his nimble organ trio | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Seattle organist Delvon Lamarr brings serious funk to his nimble organ trio


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Although the sound of the jazz organ trio—where the keyboardist lays down bass lines with foot pedals while a guitarist plays chords and a drummer adds propulsion—has never gone away, it has changed since being popularized in the 50s by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Baby Face Willette, and Jimmy McGriff. In the 1960s some artists introduced an irresistible funkiness to this adaptable instrumental format rooted in gospel and blues, even adapting it to accommodate post-James Brown grooves (I’ll never tire of hearing Grant Green’s take on the Don Covay classic “Sookie Sookie”). Among them was organist Booker T. Washington, who bridged the gap between soul and rock playing behind countless singers as well as when making hay with his own MG’s. In 2015, Seattle organist Delvon Lamarr formed his own trio, and though there’s not much innovation on the group’s 2016 debut Close But No Cigar (reissued earlier this year by Colemine), it’s a welcome addition to the tradition: David McGraw, the group’s drummer, adds serious backbeat to just about all of the material, while the beefy, amped-up sound of guitarist Jimmy James (which draws heavily from Stax session ace Steve Cropper) injects rocklike heft as he borrows the psychedelic wah-wah flavor Charles “Skip” Pitts used on the Isaac Hayes version of “Walk on By” and quotes from both David Bowie and Sly Stone on “Raymond Brings the Greens.” And they add plenty of greasy charm to their interpretations of James Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky Now” and the Tyrone Davis classic “Can I Change My Mind.” As the title of the ballad “Al Greenery” makes clear, the trio never hide their influences but rather scramble them up just enough to let their listeners enjoy the fun of pulling out their allusions and references.   v

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