Organissimo greases up and shoves off
By LAWRENCE COSENTINO
Aside from the need to hoist a Hammond B-3 organ onto casters and roll it several hundred miles down the interstate, it's a very good time to be a member of Organissimo.
Michigan's premier organ-guitar-drums jazz trio is back from an ambitious tour of the Midwest and East Coast – including New York – on the strength of a smash new CD, and they're celebrating it all at the Creole Gallery Friday. The spike in attention comes on top of a bedrock respect the trio has earned, gig by gig, during the past several years.
In August, they played a set at Baker's Keyboard Lounge, a legendary Detroit jazz haunt fraught with jazz history going all the way back to Fats Waller. As organist Jim Alfredson tells the story, an elderly black member of the lounge's waitstaff took drummer Randy Marsh aside after the show. She told him that she'd heard a lot about the group, but when she saw three white boys walk in, she said to herself, "HELL, no."
"But you guys won me over," she told Marsh.
Organissimo's October tour included stops in Boston and New York. The group's new CD, "This is the Place," is holding its own at No. 6 on Internet music hub CMJ's jazz charts – just behind Sonny Rollins and Pat Metheny.
"That's what we were hoping this CD would do, allow us to branch out of Michigan to the East Coast and the Midwest," Alfredson says.
Because of the eclectic tastes and multiple talents of its members, Oganissimo is a flexible beast, able to please bar crowds at its regular haunt, Founders in Grand Rapids, and jazzy-jazz havens like the Creole.
"In places like the Creole, you're allowed to be a little more intellectual with the music," Alfredson says. "At Founders, people are drinking beer and having a good time. You have to develop those two sides."
Although the group's core sound is drawn from the jazz organ trio as brewed up by past masters like Jimmy Smith, almost any kind of tune might pop up on an Organissimo CD. The inclusion of Frank Zappa's "Peaches en Regalia" on the new CD was Marsh's idea, says Alfredson.
"A lot of Zappaheads come out to our shows [at Founders], and they kept suggesting to us we play some Zappa," he says.
Alfredson and guitarist Joe Gloss weren't sure the tune would stand the shock of being transplanted to their funky soil. "It took quite a while to work out an arrangement that would work within the confines of the trio, but it's become kind of a crowd favorite."