Firstly, I have to say it's a great pleasure to be chosen as 'Organist Of The Month' by the IAJO
so a big thankyou to Jürgen for all the work he does to keep the site going for Hammond fans everywhere.
I began by playing piano, as so many kids do, and the move to organ was almost by accident. At the
age of around 13 I'd been having a few lessons at a local dance hall on their organ, and one weekend
the regular player with the resident band didn't turn up. I received a call to come down and play
whatever I could just to make up the numbers. That organist never came back! So, they asked me to
keep coming in on the weekends which I did for the next three years until I left school. By the way,
in those early days it wasn't a Hammond but a Bird organ, made in the UK. Does anyone else remember
them or have a picture? It was very futuristic looking with teardrop sides and to me it sounded great.
However, that was before I discovered the Hammond! Anyway, the same band moved into the nightclub scene
and asked me to turn pro after I left school. The first artist on that first week was Billy Eckstein!
I was absolutely petrified but luckily for me he had his own piano player and the rest of the band were
experienced players so I was able to scrape by playing chords. The club provided a Vox Continental
(popular enough back then) but I'd already come across the Hammond because visiting groups to the dance
hall would carry them sometimes - the Peddlers with Roy Philips and his M100 for example - and knew that
I would have to have one. The Hammond was always a very expensive instrument and so I began, as many did,
with an L100. No Leslie yet because of the cost but after a few months I could resist no longer and borrowed
more money for a 251. That L100 stayed with me for years but fashions change and everything became Fender
Rhodes, string machines and synths, and I changed to these things as well.
I came back to the Hammond in 1997 after moving to Belgium. A friend of mine (saxophonist Johan Vandendriessche)
had a C3/145 setup at home and we started improvising together. This soon turned into a trio with percussionist
Frank Michiels and we started to explore the sounds a Hammond can make. I'm a great fan of the classic
Hammond sound, and it influenced me greatly in earlier years but I feel now that the Hammond's possibilities
are rather underused. I use it in many different situations; with Northumbrian Piper Kathryn Tickell, DJ Sven
Van Hees, Lounge Guru Marc Moulin, and recently with a chamber orchestra playing a composition by Stéphane
Collin. This was specially written to use the sound of my group Ménage Artois which finds the Hammond
alongside the piano and drums and is probably my favourite combination. The Hammond can be made to fit any
music - It has such a great dynamic range and can create such different atmospheres.
Finally, I should mention that I recently bought the new Hammond XK-3 system. Well, I'm not here to advertise
other than to say I love this instrument, too. And for me it is a real instrument in its own right and capable
of some things the original can't do - for example, sustaining notes on one keyboard while changing drawbars
and still playing something different on the other keyboard! Don't worry, I won't be selling my B3 but it's
great to be able to have a real Hammond that can be moved around more easily. Must be my age…
Cheers, and thanks again for the nomination.
If you'd like to hear some examples and find out how I like to use the Hammond as well as a bit more about
the rest of my musical life you can visit http://www.hammondjazz.org.
Paul has also produced an audio file speaking about his way to the Hammond organ. Click the PLAY button
to listen to Paul !