Jazz Ambassadors Magazine
From Charlie Parker to Michael Jackson, Ken Lovern's Organ Jazz Trio's Jazz Dadd
Ken Lovern's OJT (Organ Jazz Trio)
Jazz Daddy Records-2005
Personnel: Tracks 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 12, 13: Ken Lovern, Hammond Organ; Brian Baggett, Guitar; Kevin Frazee, Drums.
Tracks 3, 5, 7: Ken Lovern, Hammond Organ; Brian Baggett, Guitar; Todd Strait, Drums; Stan Kessler, Trumpet and Flugelhorn.
Tracks 6, 10, 11: Ken Lovern, Hammond Organ; Brian Baggett, Guitar; Todd Strait, Drums.
Tracks: OJT Theme (Intro); Swirlies; Someday My Prince Will Come; Yuma Green; It's All Good; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; 7 Sticks; OJT Theme (Reprise); Billie Jean; Invitation; All Ice Blues; Big Cheese; OJT Theme (Full Theme).
Tracks recorded 2005, Premier Studios, Lenexa, KS. Engineer: Sam Platt. Mastered by Richard Dodd.
From Charlie Parker to Michael Jackson, Ken Lovern's Organ Jazz Trio's Jazz Daddy gives listeners a new spin on jazz. This recording is steeped in traditional organ jazz but with a few new kicks and riffs from the recent past plus some tracks of Ken's own thrown in. To top it all off Ken Lovern's OJT recording Jazz Daddy features some of Kansas City's finest musicians.
Typically organ jazz is accompanied by guitar and drums, which we get here from Brian Baggett and a flip-flop share from Todd Strait and Kevin Frazee, with guest appearances by horn players, like Stan Kessler and his trumpet and flugelhorn. Individually, each artist brings their instruments to life but together with Lovern and his mighty Hammond B-3, the ensemble brings itself through your speakers and plays a jam session right in your living room.
We get an introduction to the disc in the first track “OJT Theme (Intro)”. Lovern has done something unique here. He's inserted a portion of a track at the very beginning of the disc. A little later on, in the eighth track we get a little bit more and then finally on the thirteenth and final track we get ambushed with the entire “OJT Theme”. The song, on any of its three appearances, has a little bit of James Brown kick to it. The way Lovern has styled the intermittent breaks in the flow of the disc with the repeated use of his “OJT Theme” brings the listener into a live performance.
Following the brief introduction is “Swirlies”. This track has a touch of old-school funk to it. The transition to Baggett's guitar solo alone has to be heard. “Someday My Prince Will Come” takes us back in time a bit. However, OJT gives the classic jazz standard a 3/4 beat and tosses in its own intro and outro to make the song theirs.
While not a classic yet, “Yuma Green” was composed by Lovern in honor of one of the great 1960s jazz organ trios: Larry Young, Grant Green and Elvin Jones. Following up is “It's All Good” with a bit of a samba beat to it sponsored by Todd Strait's drums. Influenced by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, Lovern composed this track in the “Midwestern Jazz” style. Lending a perfect solo to the composition is Stan Kessler who also joins in to double the melody.
Track six takes the listener back once more with “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”. This romantic ballad is a standard among many jazz musicians. You can tell that it is definitely one of Ken's favorites as well. OJT follows up traditional with the original “7-Sticks”. This is my favorite track on the disc. The odd meter of the track takes the listener on a journey. It's almost dark and mysterious in its rhythm. The tune starts out with an 8 beat/7 beat alternating phrase. It flirts a few times with 4/4 and then returns to the original 15/4 groove and then finally busts out in the end with a 5/4. Each section contains different harmonies and melody materials and Baggett's guitar solo...watch out.
Lovern rounds out his first “set” with a reprise of the “OJT Theme” and then we head out into 1984 with Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean”. For organ jazz lovers this should not come as a huge shock, though. It is their tradition to take pop songs and place them in an unexpected setting. OJT starts out with the original tune but quickly morphs the song into a swinging jazz harmony. While, mambo is the beat for the next track, “Invitation”, an homage to Kansas City's own Charlie “Yardbird” Parker's is the opus of the second half of the disc. OJT's “All Ice Blues” get the band jumping when they trade sixes with Strait's drums instead of the typical trading fours.
Good New Orleans funky jazz rounds out the second to last track “Big Cheese”. Numerous jazz organists employ the New Orleans back-line groove and OJT does as well. Each of the artists on the track gets to prove their worth to OJT with their solos. Finally, rounding out the disc is the full version of “OJT Theme”.
You should be exhausted by now. Go home get some sleep...right after the release party. A live performance will celebrate the CD release on Sunday, October 30 th at Jardine's from 7-10 PM. You'll be able to pick up the CD's at CD BABY, Border's, any of the trio's gigs or at www.KenLovern.com.
Joe Klopus; Kansas City Star
It’s a classic hard-grooving jazz organ band, playing old-school and new-school
In music as in life, the thing that inspires the deepest commitment might be slow in coming. But when it finally arrives, watch out.
Case in point: Ken Lovern, an exciting Kansas City jazz organist who didn’t commit to the instrument until he was in his 30s — after he had become a lawyer, after he thought he had left his old life as a keyboardist behind.
“Really, I hadn’t played much organ until about 1997,” Lovern says. “Then I saw Medeski, Martin and Wood at the Bottleneck, and I really enjoyed what John Medeski was doing with vintage keyboards, especially the Hammond B-3.
“Within a month or two of that show I had bought a Hammond organ. I really got hooked. I was really in love with the instrument. I was working a day job, and I would take vacation time to stay home and practice. Within a year I had quit my day job and worked my way back to being a professional musician.”
These days that work is culminating in the release of his first CD as leader. Ken Lovern’s OJT (that stands for Organ Jazz Trio) is the name of the band, and it’s also the name of the disc.
It’s a classic hard-grooving jazz organ band, playing old-school and new-school grooves with equal passion. Lovern is joined by guitarist Brian Baggett and drummer Kevin Frazee. Todd Strait shares some of the drum duties on the CD, and Stan Kessler’s trumpet and flugelhorn are also heard.
Lovern is planning CD release parties, the first Oct. 30 at Jardine’s.
The cumbersome B-3 organ is a tough taskmaster, requiring the player to pump out bass lines with the feet and left hand while churning out the funk with the right. But Lovern, even though he’s a latecomer, has learned to boss it around.
As a sometime pianist, he offers this perspective: The organ has “a completely different role from the piano in a jazz combo where you have a bass player. It’s different than floating on top of what the bass and drums are doing. Timekeeping is the No. 1 priority.”
He says, “The role of being involved in playing the groove is what keeps me really focused on the organ. It puts me right in the moment, the pulse-keeping, the timekeeping, not rushing or dragging. Just feeling good. It’s almost like a trance, and you try to keep that going.”
Lovern, who grew up in Johnson County and turns 40 soon, has been laying down the grooves for quite a few years in the jazz and pop fields.
In his first attempt at a musical career, Lovern also played his share of jazz gigs, with Ida McBeth, David Basse and others, on piano and other keyboards.
But he bowed out of music in the early ’90s. “I was broke, the Gulf War hit, and the gigs went away. I got disillusioned and went to law school.
“I tried to get out of music, but I didn’t make it.”
Hearing the deep grooves of his new disc, we can be glad he’s back. The music is celebratory and exploratory at the same time. Even the odd-metered “Seven Sticks” turns into an outrageously funky jam.
These days, when he isn’t performing with the OJT, Lovern can be heard in the band the Soulcats, or sometimes with McBeth, or sometimes on a pickup gig here and there. He’s also a regular on organ at the Unity Church of Overland Park.
“Maybe I needed a break from music before I could really experience it as an artist again,” Lovern says. “Now I’m doing what I want to do.”