Five Things To Know About The Hammond B3 Organ

On The Corner Masthead


November 30, 2015 | by Kevin Coelho

Jimmy Smith

Much as you may think the Hammond organ is simply a kissing cousin to the piano or keyboard, you may be interested to know the following five facts, brought to you by High School All-Stars alum and guest blogger, organist Kevin Coelho.

  1. First thing's first: Hammond is a brand, B3 is a model (think Ford Thunderbird).
  2. The Hammond organ was originally created as a cheaper alternative to church pipe organs, and was quickly adopted by jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Bill Doggett, Milt Buckner, and Wild Bill Davis who pioneered its use in jazz, paving the way for its use in blues, rock, soul, and other genres.
  3. The Hammond organ is commonly played through a Leslie speaker, a rotating speaker that produces a Doppler-like effect. Originally, Laurens Hammond and Donald Leslie ran separate companies; Hammond had a very particular idea as to how an organ should sound and refused to manufacture Hammond organs to be compatible with Leslie speakers. Ironically, the Hammond + Leslie combination became the most widely used setup for Hammond organs in jazz as well as other genres after players fell in love with the sound of the two in tandem.
  4. The Hammond organ was a very popular instrument in the Chitlin’ Circuit, a set of performance venues safe for African American performers during segregation.
  5. Jimmy Smith is widely credited as the figure to bring the Hammond organ to the forefront of jazz. Jimmy Smith’s widespread influence resulted in a huge increase in the number of organs used in jazz, and his legacy continues to this day with his protégés including Tony Monaco and Joey DeFrancesco. If you are looking to dive into the pool of jazz organ, try checking out Tony Monaco, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, and of course, Jimmy Smith. Take a step further with Cory Henry and Shaun Martin (particularly collaborations with Kirk Franklin).

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