Aug. 29--Considering its classic and instantly identifiable sound, it's a bit strange that the Hammond B3 organ -- as unleashed, of course, through a Leslie speaker cabinet -- has become a somewhat isolated commodity in modern music.
Fortunately, this bothers Jeremy Baum not at all. A virtuoso keyboardist trained in jazz and fluent on both piano and organ, Baum delights in exploring and furthering a trail of B3-centric music established by icons such as Jimmy McGriff, Booker T. Jones, the Meters, Jimmy Smith, and James Booker.
It's a distinct style, with its roots as deep as you can get in American music -- blues and jazz -- and nuanced through the classic mutations of funk and soul. And if this music isn't front and center at the MTV Video Awards or on the Billboard charts, rest happily assured it's never going away; its fans are loyal and legion and speak of the genre reverently, as something that transports the listener to a deep, deep place.
Baum's first album, "Lost River Jams," released in 2002, was an exploration and meditation on these styles, and his long-awaited sophomore release, "The Eel," is due out in September.
"It's just the music I'm drawn to, and I'm proud to say I consider myself a blues-soul organist rather than a jazz musician," says Baum, who brings his trio tonight to Old Lyme for a date at the Side Door Jazz Club in the Old Lyme Inn. "My dad was a jazz pianist, but he loved listening to Ray Charles and Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith. I gravitated to those records as a kid, and the music's been inside me ever since."
Though Baum, now 41, studied jazz at the State University of New York at New Paltz, he also paid his tuition playing in rock bands. And while he'd started out on piano, Baum had received an analog Hammond organ as a teenage birthday present; he not only loved the sound, but cranking it through Leslie speakers was the only way he was able to compete, volume-wise, with the electric instrumentation of the rock bands.
One such band, led by his college pal, Murali Coryell -- yes, son of jazz guitar great Larry Coryell -- was signed to a label deal and was flown to Washington, D.C., to record their album.
"It was 1995," Baum remembers. "There was a Hammond B3 in the studio, and the last album it had been used on was a record called 'Relentless' -- the last album recorded by (roots guitar genius) Danny Gatton, with (jazz legend) Joey D'Francesco playing organ. It's just one of my favorite records of all time. We were in the studio, and I was looking at that B3 and thinking of 'Relentless,' and I kept saying, 'I am not worthy.'"
Baum is more than worthy.
In addition to his devotion to the artistry and styles of the great soul-blues keyboard sound, he spent years perfecting a left-handed bass technique anchored in Gulf Coast and Calypso/salsa rhythms.
"I think it's really fun to assimilate all of this into what I'm doing," he says. "I'm hyper-aware of how music in interwoven and interconnected across cultures. It's amazing how music migrates -- almost like language -- and then reinvents itself. It's exciting to be part of that."
For tonight's Side Door date, Baum is accompanied by his usual bandmates, 17-year-old wunderkind guitarist Miles Mancuso and ex-death metal drummer Chris Redding.
"Trust me," Baum laughs. "We may have a lot of different influences, but that all helps tremendously when the three of us play together. It actually works."
JEREMY BAUM TRIO, 7:30 TONIGHT, SIDE DOOR JAZZ CLUB, OLD LYME INN, 85 LYME ST., OLD LYME; $15; (860) 434-0886, THESIDEDOORJAZZ.COM
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