Jim Alfredson, leader of acclaimed Lansing, Michigan jazz organ trio Organissimo, has spent the better part of three decades captivated by the Hammond organ. Luckily for him, his musical father could relate.
“My dad was a gigging musician who stopped performing to pursue a career as a piano technician,” Alfredson says via phone during a tour stop in Seattle, Washington. “I grew up around pianos and a real Hammond B-3 in my house from the age of six, and my father was always supportive of me getting into music. He had a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, which I also loved, but it was the organ that always intrigued me. When I hit my teens, I got heavily into progressive rock—bands like Yes, Genesis, ELP, and Pink Floyd. My dad found me a Hammond M-3 organ, and he also gave me an album by Jimmy Smith. That record blew my mind and got me pointed toward jazz.”
Alfredson would study the organ religiously—not with a traditional teacher, but by absorbing albums by the instrument’s immortals. “I’ve been studying the B-3 since the age of 16,” Alfredson says. “I still consider myself a student of it. I’m always listening to records by the greats like Jimmy Smith, who’s the king in my world, as well as Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Don Patterson, John Patton, and newer artists like Larry Goldings.”
Alfredson met guitarist Joe Gloss and drummer Randy Marsh while enrolled at Michigan State University in 2000. “We started playing together, and everything just clicked,” he says. “So we started making records and touring, up the east coast of the U.S. and even overseas to Israel. We’ve put out four records, including our latest, Alive and Kickin’, and we’re currently working on the next one.” [Read our review of Alive and Kickin’ in the August ’10 issue.—Ed.]
Besides his acclaimed work with Organissimo, Alfredson currently can be heard accompanying blues singer Janiva Magness on tour dates across the U.S. and abroad. What gear is this hardcore Hammond aficionado using on the road these days? “I’m playing the Hammond XK-System with a Leslie 3300. I love it, and it’s much easier than hauling the 1958 Hammond B-3 that I used to drag around!”