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Trio releases CD, goes on hiatus

Over the last two years, organissimo has played Trio's Restaurant & Jazz Club fairly regularly, making at least a dozen appearances there.

Friday's performance, however, will be the last for the Lansing-based trio at the South Bend club — for a little while.

Earlier this month, leader Jim Alfredson made the difficult decision to put organissimo on hiatus at least through the end of the year so that he could take the keyboard job in blues and R&B singer Janiva Magness' band and tour with her, beginning April 11 in Los Angeles.

"She's a really engaging performer, knows how to work a stage," he says about Magness, who records for Alligator Records. "She's definitely a blues singer but she mixes in more R&B and soul than a normal blues singer."

In February, Alfredson played four gigs with Magness on a mini-tour of the Midwest, and after the Detroit-based singer returned from the West Coast, where she used a different keyboard player, she called Alfredson and offered him the job.

"It's something I've been working towards a long time, playing across the country, playing in Europe, making a living playing music without struggling too much," he says about the tour. "The band is really great people. Hopefully, it'll lead to bigger things. Maybe I can record with her. I think one of organissimo's biggest issues is obscurity, and if I'm out there doing this, ultimately, it'll lead back to organissimo, because that's my baby."

Since forming in 2000, organissimo — Alfredson, drummer Randy Marsh and guitarist Joe Gloss — has recorded three outstanding albums rooted in a strong jazz foundation accented by the groove of '60s organ trios, Latin rhythms, soul, blues and progressive rock.

Alfredson, who also plays in the Lansing-based soul band Root Doctor and has been helping that band's guitarist, Greg Nagy, launch a solo career, sees the hiatus as an opportunity for organissimo to regroup creatively when Magness' tour ends.

"Everybody's been so busy with other projects that it's been difficult to get together to write," he says. "When you've been doing the same thing for 10 years, we still love each other, but a break can be a good thing."

And the band enters this break on a high note, with the recent release of its first live album, "Alive & Kickin'," which was recorded at Michigan State University's public television station, WKAR-TV, for its "Backstage Pass" program. A companion DVD, with bonus tracks, will be released in April.

"It's all professionally done, so there's great lighting, a nice stage and multiple cameras," Alfredson says about the program, which spotlights Michigan bands in hour-long concerts. "The audience was very attentive and into the music. It was just kind of a bonus to have a video component to it, and to have the products be complementary is cool. You can buy the CD or the DVD or both and have a different experience with both."

With the exception of the new song "Blessed Relief," the album features live versions of songs from organissimo's first three albums, including a generous serving of perhaps the band's most popular tune.

"There's an 18-minute version of 'Pumpkin Pie' where it goes into some wacky spaces at the end," Alfredson says. "It's really drawn out, and Joe and I get the chance to take some risks and expand things quite a bit."

~ Andrew Hughes, South Bend Tribune, 3/24/2010