Gritty and smooth, edgy yet melodic, the soulful bluesy jazz-rock compositions of the Eric Michaels Organ Trio are uniquely memorable because they are enhanced by an instrument that transcends generations -- the Hammond B-3 Organ. From humble church prayer songs, to the sepia-tinted-postcard nostalgia of the late 40's and 50's dance halls, roller rinks, and live radio shows, through the 60's rock era and into the 70's disco clubs, the Hammond organ's sound has never faltered or changed. It doesn't matter whether the music is Gospel, Blues, Country-Western, Rock, Jazz, or Hip-Hop, virtually every musical genre has accepted this instrument with open arms.
It was the sheer complexity of the instrument that attracted the attention of a teenaged Eric Michaels, a native Chicagoan born into a musically -- minded family. His fascination began while hoping to catch the latest pop hit on the radio, when he heard an incredible sound instead. It was "Misty" being played by Richard "Groove" Holmes on the Hammond B-3. Eric was captivated to say the least. His investigation for the sound led him to a small club on Wells Street (no longer there) called "The Hungry Eye." Although too young to enter the establishment, he had a perfect view through the window and could clearly see the backside of the organ. He was astonished by the organist physical coordination - playing bass with his left hand and feet on the bass pedals, while simultaneously using the upper keyboard to play melodies and improvisations. "I couldn't take my eyes off the organ player.", says Eric in awe. "It was like watching a pilot handling the controls in the cockpit of a jet airliner" he says. He knew he had to learn how to fly that plane.
As Eric's passion for uncovering the organ's secrets evolved, so did his experience, and "chops." Inspiration came from legends like: Jimmy Smith, "Brother" Jack McDuff, "Groove" Holmes, Ray Charles; even pop artists like: Brian Auger, Stevie Winwood, Keith Emerson and the one and only Joey DeFrancesco. The list goes on forever. There isn't enough space here to describe Eric's colorful music career in detail, but it's a great ride and it's taking a new spin with his new CD, which blends Jazz, Blues, R&B and Rock into some totally unique and diverse sounds.
Beverley O'Connor (Bullseye Magazine & Freelance writer)