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Jim Alfredson, organist behind Lansing trio organissimo, is suffering for jazz

Kalamazoo Gazette – September 9, 2005
By Mark Wedel, Special to the Gazette

No matter where they go on tour, such as the coming Bell 's 20th Anniversary party September 9th at the Eccentric Cafe, Alfredson loads up the big vintage Hammond B3 and Leslie in their van.

"It is (a pain) and currently I've been seeing doctors because my back's been killing me for the past couple of months," he said. "There's really no other option."

There are "dinky" digital keyboards that have Hammond settings, "but it doesn't sound the same," he said. "I just play the B3 and I deal with it, because I love it -- it's got that sound."

Others love the organissimo sound as well. Their new CD, out on their own label Big O Records in August, "This is the Place," reached #12 so far on the CMJ charts for college radio, and #25 on the JazzWeek Top-50. It will soon be available from and other retailers (go to to find out where). It's playing on jazz radio around the country and inspired JazzWeek magazine to write, "More than the run-of-the mill organ combo, organissimo should appeal to B3 lovers and groove kids alike.”

Alfredson, guitarist Joe Gloss and drummer Randy Marsh start with the funky boogaloo of '50s - '60s soul jazz organists like Jimmy Smith, which they paid tribute to on their 2003 debut "Waiting For The Boogaloo Sisters," and try to put their original sound to it, while sticking to the old idea that jazz can be party music.

“We have a mix of traditional and contemporary sounds," Alfredson said. "There are a lot of bands nowadays that are rehashing the standards. There's nothing wrong with that, but that's what I hope we don't do."

On one hand, some jazz is pure straight-ahead, on the other hand, some boogaloo bands are just jam bands with jazz flavoring.

"We straddle that line," Alfredson said. "Jazz was never meant to be a museum piece." With originals and unexpected covers like Frank Zappa's old progressive rock instrumental "Peaches En Regalia”, they stay fresh. But it all comes down to "we play what we like to play."

Also the organist for Root Doctor, Alfredson said he brings in a bit of the blues and soul of that band into organissimo. This makes their brand of jazz party music. "We're definitely not afraid of that."

With the new attention, they've landed gigs outside of Michigan . Alfredson is excited to be playing Kenny's Castaways, a hip club in Greenwich Village in New York City, in October. More big-city gigs are on the way. Unfortunately Lansing , says Alfredson "… doesn't have a large jazz scene, to say the least. It's kind of an uphill battle."

But that just means more lugging around of the organ. "A lot of people actually don't know what it is, because they've never seen one," he said. "Then they go, 'I know that sound!' Other's freak out, because they haven't seen one in so long."

organissimo, Root Doctor and Great Lakes Grass will be at Bell 's 20th Anniversary Party Friday, Sept. 9, at 9:30 . Admission is free. Call 382-2332 for more information.