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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Hammond B3 Konnakol!

Updated: Jul 7

In a previous blog, Shakti: My India Connection, I spoke of my exposure to Indian music, primarily through the jazz guitarist, John McLaughlin and his group, Shakti. I first heard Shakti in 1976. It blew me away and I've been interested in and influenced by Indian music ever since.

In what might seem like a disparate connection in light of the above, I was recently watching a performance by the Groove Blue Organ Trio.

I am a HUGE fan of the Hammond B3. So much so I'm a member of a couple of Hammond Organ FaceBook groups even though I don't play the instrument!

Hammond B3 music is a major part of my professional history and if I had to limit myself to one genre, a Jazz/Blues Hammond organ group would be it.

The jazz record I always wanted to make was just such an endeavor. I released Channeling Harold in 2001. The group was a working band at the time, featuring B3 player Rich VanSant.

So the Groove Blue Organ Trio is a Hammond B3 Organ group with Tony Monaco on B3, Vinny Valentino on guitar, and drummer Steve Smith.

You may know Steve Smith as the drummer for Journey. He's also worked with Mariah Carey, Andrea Bocelli, Elisa, Vasco Rossi, Zucchero, Savage Garden and Bryan Adams - and that's just the Rock/Pop stuff.

He has played with jazz musicians such as Steps Ahead, Wadada Leo Smith, Tom Coster, Ahmad Jamal, Dave Liebman, Larry Coryell, Victor Wooten, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Scott Henderson, Frank Gambale, Stuart Hamm, Dweezil Zappa, Anthony Jackson, Aydın Esen, Torsten de Winkel, George Brooks, Michael Zilber, Steve Marcus, Andy Fusco, Kai Eckhardt, Lee Musiker, Howard Levy, Oteil Burbridge, Jerry Goodman, Tony MacAlpine, Hiromi Uehara and Bill Evans.

So I'm really enjoying the Groove Blue Organ Trios' funky/blues/jazz/gospel blend of music. I'm appreciating Steve Smith's drumming big time; the guy's a monster. Then I hear this come out of his mouth:

Holy crap! I recognize that! That is Konnakol: the syllabic recital of South Indian rhythmic cycles! I first heard that in 1976 on Shaktis’ A Handful of Beauty.

What the heck is an American Rock/Pop/Jazz drummer playing in a funky Hammond Organ trio doing reciting South Indian Konnakol!?!

Not only that, but the guitarist, Vinny Valentino, is doing it too!

So I go to Steve Smith's website and there it is, right on the index page:

The dude is applying Konnakol and South Indian rhythms to the drum kit.

So it turns out Steve Smith has toured with the great Indian sitarist and tabla player, Sandip Burman.

He’s also played with Zakir Hussain, who was the tabla player for Shakti!

For the last 45 years I've been interested in musicians who were integrating Indian Classical music with western harmony, but hearing Konnakol in the context of a Hammond B3 group was a possibility that never occurred to me!

Who knew? Not me.


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