Pop goes the Hammond B-3

Besides hearing jazz played as tight as only a quartet of professionals can, the Jazz Yukon audience Sunday night will enjoy a spectacle.

Have you seen the Hammond B-3 organ at The Cellar? Well, you will see it played by jazz veteran Mike LeDonne … and it will be a spectacle.

“The funny thing is that when they set up a Hammond B-3, it is set up so you don’t see the keyboards,” says LeDonne over the phone from his Manhattan apartment.

“You see only my face and not the tricky stuff going on.

“But I like to set it up on the side, because it is quite the show. I’m like the Wizard of Oz back there.

“You can pull these draw-bars out and get this range of sound; you can do the bass man’s job.

“And you have this speaker – a Leslie speaker – and a rotary horn starts spinning really fast and creates this beautiful sound … it makes the sound bigger.

“It’s a beast, there is no doubt about it. You have to do a lot of coordinating and get your brain to hit the right switch at the right time.

“Now, when I play a solo, the left hand is keeping the bass line continuous while the right hand is playing lines like a horn … so you have to split your brain.

“That’s one of the most challenging and different things about playing it.”

Surely as complicated as the Hammond B-3 is, the quartet will follow him.

“Oh no,” says LeDonne. “The other players don’t necessarily follow me. If we have a horn, we follow him.

“It’s like a big band … a big band follows the saxophone.”

Besides the spectacle that Hammond B-3 is, LeDonne says he wants to make the music even more accessible by playing pop tunes.

One of his standards is Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.”

“I play more modern and a mix of standards, and I play the pop tunes in a jazz way so that people under 40, or even 30, can enjoy it as they know the tune.

“Then the are willing to listen.

“I want people to get involved and enjoy it.”

Being willing to mix it up, and the fact that jazz isn’t as regional as it once was, LeDonne says he can aim his music at a wider audience.

“I’ve played in Harlem and the Upper East Side, it doesn’t matter anymore; it just depends on the crowd you get.

“You get a good crowd, you get a good gig.

“That’s why I like to play pop; open them up and then they are willing to try something more adventurous.”

LeDonne says he’s found great crowds in small communities and, since he has over 150 albums out, he usually finds those who know his work.

The Mike LeDonne Quartet is filling in for the previously scheduled Jake Langley Trio.

The Jazz On the Wing presentation is Sunday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m., at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets are available at the YAC Box Office, Arts Underground or www.yukontickets.com.

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