Tribute to Joey D
Anyone familiar with me knows my history with and love of the Hammond B3. Groups built around B3 players who kick bass is my favorite genre of Jazz/Blues but I love the B3 sound in any context.
In fact, I love it so much I’m a member of several online Hammond organ groups/forums even though I don’t play the instrument!
I was initially exposed to the B3 concurrently in church (Brother Ragsdale from Baton Rouge doing “Victory in Jesus!”) and in the context of late sixties Rock and Pop music; Santana, Deep Purple, Steve Winwood, The Young Rascals and so on.
That’s why when I first heard it in a jazz context I took to it immediately. I could talk for hours about Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes, Charles Earland, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Lonnie Liston Smith and many more, along with the guitar players associated with them; Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino, Grant Green, etc.
Playing with local B3 players in Kansas City was a huge part of my formative experience and education as a working musician.
Through the 70’s and 80’s I worked with Rich VanSant, Bill Manness, Larry Fike, Greg Meise and Everette DeVan among others. All these players were at least 10 years older than me, some more.
In the nineties, even though I was working a lot with all the guys I just mentioned, I became saddened and concerned that I wasn’t seeing any younger B3 guys coming up. It seemed as though it was a dying art form, destined to fade away with the passing of the old guard.
Even the old guys were replacing their B3s with electronic keyboards. Can’t say that I blamed them; it was a whole skill set in-and-of itself to move a 300-400 pound organ with a Leslie speaker in and out of vans, clubs and stages. Any musician with B3 experience has stories of wrestling B3s up and down narrow staircases, standing them on end to fit in elevators and so on.
Still, nothing sounds like a real B3.
Then, in 2001, I heard Pat Martino’s “Live at Yoshi’s.” That was the first time I can remember hearing Joey DeFrancesco. Holy crappola! An AMAZING Hammond B3 player kicking bass who was 15 years younger than me! And something like 25 years younger than Pat!
I wore out that CD, man. It was everything I loved about Hammond B3 Jazz.
I began seeing Joey D everywhere, playing with everyone, all over the world.
In the late 2000’s young Hammond B3 players started popping up all over, including here in Kansas City, many of them mentored by the aforementioned Everette DeVan, and inspired by Joey DeFrancesco.
I met him a couple of times (he was very gracious to me) and saw him play with Pat Martino here in Kansas City at the Blue Room. I cancelled everything I had going that night; there was no way I was going to miss that!
I also saw him once with his long standing guitarist Paul Bollenbeck and drummer Bryan Landrum.
I woke up this morning to the sad news that Joey D has passed away at age 51.
In my opinion, Joey DeFrancesco single-handedly caused a revitalization of the Hammond organ-based genre of Jazz that I love so much and had feared was fading away.
Thank you, Joey D.
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