“I always say that the organ chose me because I never even considered that instrument and just out of the blue I sat down at it and I could play it.”
Instrumental music has an interesting way of communicating to various senses. Each instrument involved can become its own vocal cord, while the syncopation of them within a song can become a unified voice. And in a funky, soulful, and jazzy way, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio from Seattle pulls this off with Lamarr on the Hammond B3, Jimmy James on guitar, and Julian MacDonough on the drums.
On Dec. 18, the band will be at Brighton Music Hall in Allston. Local artist DJ Carbo and hometown funk act Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket will start off the show. I spoke with Lamarr ahead of the show about what he was up to before the trio started, making an album with a different drummer earlier in the year, how he stands out from other drummers, and taking it one day at a time.
Before the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio started in 2015, you were an active instrumentalist in the Seattle music scene. What kind of bands and projects were you involved in before starting the trio? Were you doing a lot of session and fill-in work?
I had a couple of different projects. I’ve always kind of been a sideman, people would just hire me to play one-off gigs and stuff like that but I’ve had a few different steady projects for a while. I had a band called Rippin’ Chicken, another one called Megatron, and another one called the Southside Players, I was just doing stuff like that. It was similar to the Organ Trio, but I’ve also done a lot of straight-ahead jazz too. A lot of swingin’, that’s my first love right there and I just love to swing.
Unfortunately I don’t get to do it very often anymore, but I was always on the scene. I’ve been on it pretty much since high school.
You were originally a drummer and a trumpet player before you started playing the organ, so what influenced you to start playing your current instrument?
I got a call to play a gig with an organist in Seattle named Joe Doria and that was the first time I’d seen the organ outside of church. When I was young I used to see the pastor’s wife play the organ in the church, but I wasn’t really into music at that point. I didn’t pay it any attention and it wasn’t until I started playing drums with Joe that I saw an organist actually play. I’d never seen the organ played like that ever.
It was like one day a drummer came in, who is actually the drummer we have on tour right now in Julian MacDonough, but I didn’t know who he was back then. When we were playing Julian walked in, he sat in on drums, and I just asked Joe if I could play the organ. I basically learned how to play it by watching Joe do it.
I’ve never touched that thing before and when I played it for the first time I was playing foot pedals and all, walking the bass line, and we were swingin’. I always say that the organ chose me because I never even considered that instrument and just out of the blue I sat down at it and I could play it so it definitely chose me.
It’s awesome how it worked out that way. This past February you released your third studio album, Cold As Weiss with Jimmy James on guitar and Dan Weiss on drums. How would you describe the making of the album and is there anything about the album that sets it apart for you versus the other albums you’ve been involved in?
I classify all our albums in a certain way because when we recorded our very first album, which was Close But No Cigar, we didn’t even know that we were going to be recording. It was kind of spur of the moment, get a call for a studio and we just ended up recording.
Then, the second album, which was I Told You So, that one we knew we were going to record but at the same time we didn’t even have any music to record. They were all like half-written grooves when we went into the studio so we actually had to finish the tunes in real time, we had to put melodies and other parts to these songs so it kind of has a lot more of our influences to it. Then, when you get to the Cold As Weiss album, I feel like that album is us.
The record quality, it’s alive and it sounds live. It is live because we just play songs straight through, we don’t multitrack, we don’t do any of that sort of thing, we just play every song straight through and if we mess up then that’s what you got. I feel like the rawness of Cold As Weiss, while it still has our influences, sounds more like us.
Yeah, it feels like you’ve reached a sort of apex, which is really cool. You mentioned how you have Julian MacDonough into the fold as your current drummer, so what is it about him as a drummer that makes him stand out from other drummers that you’ve worked with in the past?
I’ve been playing music for a long time with Julian. That band Megatron I mentioned was actually a trio with him on drums, me on organ, and a trumpet player named Paul Chandler. It was funky, it was jazz, it was experimental, it was super dope and super exciting. One of the things I really love about Julian is that he’s super inventive. Not only does he have a strong pocket, because the pocket is everything to me, but he can have that pocket and he can take it places without losing it.
It’s a whole other dynamic to the excitement and the feel of the music that we never really had with any other drummer. It’s completely different from any drummer we’ve ever played with in a really good way and I’ve always liked that about Julian. Honestly, I would have called him a long time ago but I thought he’d be way too busy because he’s been running his own nonprofit organizations and stuff like that so I didn’t even consider or think about asking him. I just figured that he couldn’t do it, so when we started this tour back in August he said he’d do it and it’s been a real treat to have him. I love the dude’s playing and he’s a good person inside and out as well so there’s some major pluses.
What are your plans going into next year? Do you, Jimmy, and Julian have any plans to make a new album together or do you plan on just touring for the next few months?
Honestly, we’ve just been taking it a day at a time because our band is like the weather. You never know what it’s going to be the next day, so we just kind of go with the flow and whatever happens happens. We plan on putting out another album at some point in early 2023, so we got that but we just go with the flow. Wherever my wife, who is also our manager, takes us, that’s where we’re going.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.