From Chicago Jazz Magazine:
For Jazz fans in Chicago , the week before Labor Day might as well be the 12 days of Christmas. The Chicago Jazz Fest officially runs Thursday, August 31 through Sunday September 3. But as we all well know, that festival hardly begins and ends with the Petrillo band shell. There's the Pub Crawl on Wednesday, the afterfest jam sessions at the Jazz Showcase and the afterfest free jazz blowouts at HotHouse on Friday and Sunday. And that's just a sampling. For jazz fans in Chicago , it's nothing short of heaven. And with such heavies as Charlie Hunter, Joe Lovano, and memorials for Malachi Thompson and Oscar Brown, Jr, this is going to be a Chicago Jazz Fest that is loaded with talent. And that's just a sampling of what's going on at the Petrillo Band Shell!
Of course, there are two other stages filled with jazz superstars from around Chicago and around the world. Paul Wertico, John Moulder and Lee Konitz will all be playing at the Jazz on Jackson and Jazz and Heritage stages throughout the weekend. The Chicago Jazz Fest is rarely less than a heavy experience, and this year is certainly no exception. Among all of the monsters that will be filling out the schedule of this year's jazz fest are relative newcomers Organissimo. As you can guess, they're an organ trio, consisting of Jim Alfredson on B-3, Joe Gloss on guitar and Randy Marsh on drums. Hearing them, you get the idea that they are very much of one mind, as they mesh beautifully on originals, standards and the occasional pop tune. However, in getting to know them, you realize that these three are very different, and what they bring to the table individually makes for a very cool whole.
Over the course of two albums, they've developed a group sound that is grooving, swinging and hip. It's obvious that this is a BAND, and not just a leader with a few lead sheets and a list of favorite standards. Considering that they've already made serious inroads in the Chicago jazz scene, playing Martyr's, HotHouse, The Green Mill, and most recently Andy's, I figured it was time to sit down with them and find out what makes them tick.
Organissimo got their start as a band in 2000. While Alfredson and Gloss had been playing together for a while, it was when they found Randy, in a strange turn of events, that they became a band. As Randy
explained, "Jim had heard me on the Jimmy Forrest album "Heart of the Forrest" with Shirley Scott and found out I live in Grand Rapids , only an hour's drive away! So we got together, and here we are!!"
Of course, any three guys with talent can play together, but from the beginning, Organissimo was looking to create something a little different, as Jim explained. "My goal was to form a group that worked as a whole in regards to both compositions and presentation, marrying improvisation with ensemble work and creating a unique sound. I found sympathetic mates in Joe and Randy and that's why we decided to actually name our trio instead of just calling it the Jim Alfredson Trio or the Joe Gloss Trio or the Randy Marsh Nuttiness Express. Come to think of it, that wouldn't be bad!"
That sense of "group" as opposed to "organist with backing players" was fleshed out on their first record, "Waiting for the Boogaloo Sisters." Songs with changing sections and definite arrangements were the rule, and not the exception. While the obvious influences of Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff loomed large, so did the shimmering sound of the Pat Metheny Group, especially on Gloss' "Life Wish."
Gloss' take on the group fleshes this opinion out when I asked him about his sound and how it fits into the group. "The guitar is really a romantic instrument, Marshall stacks notwithstanding, and so it's natural to want to play it that way. But the organ can be played in a lyrical or ethereal manner as well, so again, for the sake of diversity of moods, why not? This band is quite good at creating a shimmering,
floating sort of vibe, and so we are always looking for material that is conducive to doing just that. It's a nice space to be in once in a while."
That variety of moods, as Joe puts it, also showed itself in a different way on their latest album, "This is the Place." Flourishes of prog-rock can be found on a few of the tracks, and this was no mistake. “I am influenced heavily by rhythm. I usually start writing something based around a drum pattern of some kind. I like compositions that are interesting rhythmically, and if there's some harmonic trickery going on, that's just a bonus for me. Growing up listening to prog-rock, I really dig odd time signatures and non-standard subdivisions of the beat.”
Of course, there's no better way to show off a love of prog-rock than to include a Frank Zappa song on your record. Considering the Jazz world's appreciation of those rare cases of pop and rock musicians putting out tricky material, it's odd that Zappa's music doesn't get mined more in the jazz world. That said, Organissimo decided to add their treatment of Zappa's Peaches en Regalia to "This is the Place" after much discussion over it within the band's ranks. When asked if they planned on more material in that vein, they reported that they've been working on a few Jethro Tull tunes as of late, in addition to the many originals that get written by Alfredson and Gloss.
As is the case with many jazz bands, while the albums might be good, and even occasionally great, the best way to see or hear them is live. Jim mentioned that there is the idea of a live CD or DVD in the works from shows recorded throughout the Midwest .
Seeing Organissimo will get a bit easier at the Chicago Jazz Festival this year, with a show slated for the Jazz on Jackson stage at 2:20 on Friday afternoon.
Considering their numerous Chicago appearances recently, I figured it was only appropriate to ask them what they like about playing in the Windy City . Randy and Jim both shouted out, "We Love Chicago!"
-- Paul Abella