Growing up in Montreal in the 60s, I heard music from artists like Michelle Richard, Ginette Reno and Robert Charlebois. At home, my Dad had the radio dial set firmly to the English speaking station, CJAD, that featured news and easy listening stuff like Percy Faith and Tom Jones.
My first musical awakening came around the age of 10, while watching a local TV variety show called Like Young. One day Wilson Pickett came to town and the show invited him to appear. I remember my brother and I standing transfixed in front of the black and white TV set, mouths wide open, excitedly watching the Wicked Pickett do a medley of his hits.
Soon after that, I was home alone and decided to find out what other music was out there... I carefully noted where the needle was on the radio dial and turned the knob. You just didn't mess around with the radio dial in my house! Soon some very exciting and appealing sounds filled my ears - Top 40! I remember listening as if I'd found gold. I listened some more that day then set the dial back to the easy listening station.
I found myself messing with that radio dial more and more often... Of course that Christmas, I asked for a radio and a record player! It seemed I liked bands with horn sections the best - bands like Chase, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Chicago. A few years later, I discovered jazz on late night radio. I remember rushing out and buying Phil Upchurch's "Darkness, Darkness", my very first jazz record. I liked jazz, but it would be a few years till the sound really captivated me.
I spent the 70s listening to R&B, soul, funk and rock, with some jazz on occasion. One band in particular caught my attention during that time... I remember at a party, someone put on Tower of Power's "Back to Oakland". And I remember not letting anyone anywhere near the turntable for the rest of the night. I played that record over and over again... That sound, that horn section shook me up like nothing ever had before.
In the early 80s, after I'd moved to Toronto, I was channel surfing one day and on came a nice looking fellow in a suit playing classical trumpet. I stopped surfing and listened appreciatively. Immediately after the classical piece, man in the suit started into some serious jazz...
WHOA, WHAT IS THIS????????
Turns out he was coming to town for a concert in a few weeks. I bought tickets. I remember him telling the audience, "...if you like this, go out and buy some jazz records. Not mine. Go out and buy some Thelonious Monk..."
At work the next day, I told my boss that I was totally smitten with jazz and that it looked like this was going to be the only music for me from now on. The next morning, I came in and found a pile of Miles and Blakey albums on my desk. She told me they were mine to enjoy for as long as I wanted. She'd had them in her record collection ever since her college days in England and was now happy to pass them on to me to enjoy for awhile.
And so began my journey into jazz. I took those precious records home and soon started my regular Saturday morning treks to Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street (Jazz, Second Floor), where the jazz staff was exceptionally knowledgeable - and where I always ended up spending way too much money! Those folks had an encyclopedic knowledge and a thorough love of jazz. It took me awhile, but I bought all the records that my boss had loaned me, and all the records of all the people on those records...
Around that time I ran into a good friend on the subway. We hadn't seen each other in awhile and we were catching up on our news. She informed me that she'd started seeing a new guy, a jazz musician. I mentally rolled my eyes at that, but just smiled and said, "That's nice, what does he play?"
"Organ, you mean piano?"
"No, he plays organ."
"Hey, you like jazz. Tell me something... I invited him over to dinner and I'd like to play some music for him. Any ideas what I should play?"
I couldn't help her. My knowledge of jazz organ at that time was nada. I suggested a couple of pianists Boyfriend might like. She got off at her stop and I continued on alone.
A young man sitting across from me with a guitar case, who'd overheard my friend and I talking, shyly piped in.
"Mademoiselle," he said, "vous avez besoin d'ecouter a Jimmy Smith."
"Vraiment?", I said, "et qui est Jimmy Smith?"
"Jimmy Smith? Oh, mon dieu, c'est le Roi de l'orgue Hammond!!"
Well, that little tidbit had come too late for my friend. I thanked the young man with the guitar case, got off at my stop and promptly forgot all about JOS... until about 10 years later.
By that time I'd moved to the States (the aforementioned good friend had introduced me to one of Boyfriend's buddies, a jazz drummer from Pittsburgh...) and by then I'd also heard some jazz organ. I liked it but I didn't really "get it" until one particular night...
The quartet in question consisted of Don Aliquo, Jr on sax, Luther DeJarunett on guitar, Sylvester Goshay on drums and Dave Braham at the organ. The gig was on the Friday night after Thanksgiving, in 1995 I think, at some dinky little hall in Uniontown, PA. The music those four produced that night was un-be-lievable. I became a rabid fan of the jazz organ sound right there and then. And the irony is... Dave Braham didn't even have a Hammond B-3 that night. He was getting that organ sound out of a Yamaha keyboard!
This latest discovery led to those (in)famous online Hammond discussion groups, the yearly organ jams in Newark, New Jersey, hearing and meeting organists from all over the country, and to eventually forming the non-profit Jazz Organ Fellowship with Pete Fallico in Oakland, California.
And now I'm telling my whole musical life history in this blog. But I'll just add this...
As much as I live and breathe this music called jazz, I've never had a desire to actually play it or even to learn how. I'm always asked if I play or sing... I don't play any instrument and I sing like the devil. I'm happy to appreciate the music and its creators and to move the music forward in any way that I can.
I'm also very proud of my adopted city of Pittsburgh, a place so rich in jazz history. The jazz people here, the veterans and the up-and-comers alike, are so phenomenally talented and hard working. I'm very, very fortunate to have met all the amazingly talented people I have over the years. I've been truly blessed by their friendship and their music.
Thanks for reading... Linda