Organist Larry Young carved out a truly unique path on the holy
Hammond B-3 organ. His modal, John Coltrane-esque approach was
a total departure from the soul and jazz organ styles that had dominated
the airwaves of the ’60s and ’70s. Young’s playing (and subsequent
recordings with legendary drummer Elvin Jones) influenced
countless organists, including Larry Goldings, Sam Yahel, and myself.
Though Young died in 1978 at the young age of 37, his solo work—as
well as his work with artists such as Miles Davis, Tony Williams, and
even Jimi Hendrix—continues to inspire players around the globe. Here
are five ways to make your playing Young-er! - by Joe Bagg
Click thumbnails for larger sheet music images. Audio examples follow.
1. Bass Lines
Ex. 1a illustrates a typical Larry Young organ bass line over the first four measures of a blues in F. Set your organ or clonewheel’s
drawbars to 83 8000 000 on the lower manual. Young would often reinforce his groove with drummer Elvin Jones by alternating
between the root and fifth of the harmony in his bass lines, as seen in example Ex. 1b. You can hear this on the song “Zoltan” from
Young’s classic Blue Note album Unity. The simplicity of this type of bass line helped offset the syncopated rhythms Young would
sometimes play with his right hand, as in Ex. 1c. Use drawbar setting 80 8000 006 for the upper manual.
2. Fourth Voicings
Larry Young pioneered the use of fourth voicings on the organ. McCoy Tyner had famously developed them on piano, but Young was
the first organist to make them a staple on the Hammond B-3 organ. Ex. 2 demonstrates how to integrate these voicings with three
common chord types: major seventh (using the Lydian mode), dominant seventh (using the Mixolydian mode), and minor seventh
(using the Dorian mode). Use drawbar settings 84 800 0000 for the lower manual and 88 8000 000 for the upper. Add third harmonic
percussion and vibrato/chorus at Young’s preferred setting of C1.
Audio example: Larry Young Ex 2
Ex. 3 shows how to use Young-type voicings in the context of a chord progression. Some of these voicings have an added note on
top. Young often did this in his right hand to fatten up his sound, since his left hand was usually busy walking a bass line. Play both
right and left hand parts on the lower manual using drawbar setting 83 800 0000. Once again, set vibrato/chorus to C1.
Audio example: Larry Young Ex 3
4. Solo Lines
Another technique that Young adapted from McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane was the use of pentatonic scales in improvisation. Ex.
4a shows a C minor pentatonic scale, which one might use over a Cmin7 chord. If you break up the pentatonic scales by playing
the pattern in Ex. 4b, you end up with a melodic line of perfect fourths. Ex. 4c is a solo line over a Cmin7 chord. Use the same
drawbar settings as in Ex. 2.
5. Putting it Together
Ex. 5 is an example of how to integrate all these elements over a blues in F. Notice how in measures 8 through 10, the fourth voicings
are broken up for use as a melodic line. This is one of Young’s trademark tricks.
Audio example: Larry Young Ex 5
Joe Bagg is a renowned pianist, organist, and educator from
Los Angeles. He has performed with Bobby Hutcherson, Larry
Coryell, and Madeleine Peyroux, and his latest recording The
Joe Bagg Organ Trio will be released in late 2010. Bagg
teaches at Citrus College and Fullerton College. Learn more