The Hammond organ emerged in the 1930s and was marketed to churches as a more cost-efficient alternative to elaborate and expensive pipe organs. A generation of musicians gained exposure to it during their formative years playing gospel in churches, then took their mastery of its sounds into secular music like soul and jazz. With its wide array of tones and robust sound, it became an affordable alternative to larger sized bands.
Fats Waller and Count Basie experimented with the Hammond but its first notable aficionado was Jimmy Smith. His Hard Bop excursions on the Blue Note label made the sound a signature part of the jazz scene in the 1950s and on into the 1960s, especially after a landmark performance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival.
Smith sparked a revolution. Brother Jack McDuff switched from the piano to the Hammond organ. It continues with contemporary players like Barbara Dennerlein and Joey DeFrancesco, the latter of which even collaborated with Jimmy Smith.
Now Mobile keyboard master Chris Spies leads a tour of the instrument’s capabilities and history for the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO). The event is MOJO’s January Jazz Jambalaya and features Spies plus guitarist Chris Clifton, saxophonist Roland Cobb and drummer John Milham.
Things get underway Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m. at Gulf City Lodge (601 State St.). Located at the intersection of State and Warren streets in downtown, it is directly adjacent to Dunbar Performing Arts School.
Entrance is $12, $10 for students and military, $8 for MOJO members. Admission includes a light jambalaya dinner and a cash bar is available.