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Ken Lovern: Press

OJT

New Standards for the Green Lady

Personnel: Ken Lovern, organ; Brian Baggett, guitar; Kevin Frazee, drums.

Tracks:
Chained Lightning,
The Fez,
Eleanor Rigby,
Everybody Wants to Rule the World,
I Kissed a Girl,
Layla,
The Way You Make Me Feel,
West L.A. Fadeaway,
Black Peter,
OJT Theme 2015.

Recording engineer: Ken Lovern.
Mix engineer: Chad Meise.
Mastering engineer: Collin Jordan at The Boiler Room

The OJT – Organ Jazz Trio, in case you wondered
– have been Green Lady Lounge regulars since 2013. The band has been together for a decade, and this regular (once or twice a week) gig has allowed an already seasoned band to develop a strong new repertoire. They call this New Standards, and even though the tunes may be familiar they have not often been tackled by jazz musicians.

The tracks are not all new, really. The Steely Dan opening tracks are from the 1970s, the Beatles track from the 1960s. “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Black Peter” are from the Grateful Dead, and I remember when I was a teen how Baltimore DJ Fat Daddy woke me up almost daily with “Layla.” Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears and Katy Perry tunes round it out.

The repertoire works for OJT, and this should not surprise. Steely Dan is a favorite of jazz musicians and their work is full of jazz elements (and jazz musicians). The Grateful Dead was a jam band known for its extended improvisations. And jazz musicians have always been able to find and adapt good pop material into their approach.

The OJT approach features some great grooves, and that means Kevin Frazee, who is solid as a Rockingham.
It starts right from the first track, an easy blues that would not be out of place on a Bill Doggett record. On “Fez” that groove is the Latin Side of OJT; check out that organ growl during the organ/guitar vamp behind Frazee’s solo. He swings “Eleanor Rigby,” and Baggett sounds a bit like Pat Martino here. And how about the shuffle on “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and another easy groove on a “Layla” that finds more inspiration from the Unplugged version than the original from Derek and the Dominos.

Brian Baggett is one of my favorite KC area guitarists, and the OJT is a format for him. He nails the guitar riffs (check “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”), and his solos are highlights throughout, and I mean every track. I especially liked him on “I Kissed a Girl,” which starts slow and then romps into a double-time. You need to comp strong rhythms in the organ trio, and Brian excels here also. His interplay with Lovern shows their years working together.

The Hammond B-3 is a powerful tool, and many organists like to show off that power. Ken Lovern can do that but rarely exploits the B-3. His bass-lines are strong, and they can absolutely rumble and growl. He shines on the solos, and the climaxes are exciting, “The Fez” being a great example.

The “OJT Theme 2015” is their closing riff, and it is often the highlight of a Green Lady set. The tune can go in many directions, and my reaction is usually “you mean the set is over already?” They do it again here. This
“Theme” makes me want to grab another brew and stay for another OJT set.
—Roger Atkinson
It’s dark and it’s your first time. Perhaps unsure what to make of the swanky staff dress code or walls adorned with art, rest assured—you’ve made it. The latest release from Organ Jazz Trio titled New Standards For The Green Lady bears the name of a venue that plays host to some of the best jazz Kansas City has to offer, and to OJT themselves two nights a week, the Green Lady Lounge.

The forces comprising Organ Jazz Trio are Hammond organist and composer Ken Lovern, guitarist Brian Baggett, and drummer Kevin Frazee. The trio began somewhat of a residency at the Green Lady in 2013 and have since become a fixture there. Any of the three can be found around town in various groups: Lovern in 3 Trails West and Maria the Mexican, Baggett in DOJO and Brian Baggett Trio, and Frazee on drums in the Kevin Frazee Trio and Chris Hazelton Trio.

Having played together for over 12 years, Organ Jazz Trio define cohesiveness. They play over a hundred gigs a year. Though no format can fully capture the essence of a live Organ Jazz Trio set, this release provides a glimpse into more than an hour of studio material produced by Lovern.

The record starts with effervescent organ introducing itself in an interpretation of 38 Special’s “Chained Lightning.” Next, a swift yet tender take on “The Fez” by Steely Dan. OJT is not satisfied with famed jazz standards and reflect on the album saying “few, if any, tunes on this release could be considered standards.”

The guys then undertake the Tears For Fears hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” where Baggett’s quaint solid state amplifier and Gibson hollow body guitar guide listeners to a memorable moment in the album. Clapton’s “Layla” is another essential listen.

OJT’s renditions on New Standards For The Green Lady will force you to contemplate whether you prefer “I Kissed a Girl” or “Eleanor Rigby,” in their extrapolated jazz formats at least. Katy Perry is not typically an artist that crosses a jazz musician’s mind when a desire to go “outside the box” occurs but Organ Jazz Trio challenges the status quo with “I Kissed a Girl” and breathes swung, sophisticated life into the tune. Baggett and Lovern echo in unison on the hook of the track before one or the other eases into a tangent of improvisational virtuosity, as per usual. In no way is Frazee left behind in any of this as his crisp, dynamic efforts comprise the groove behind OJT’s essence.

As it would be inconsiderate to leave without a personal touch, Organ Jazz Trio graciously included original work “OJT Theme 2015” as the finale of the album. Arguably the odd man out of the record, OJT originality in the track is unmistakable. The theme’s carefree sentiment is made possible by the loose and smooth slinkiness of the organ and Scofield-esque guitar work.

New Standards For The Green Lady is a strong follow up to the group’s 2005 debut recording Ken Lovern’s OJT and a good indication that few musical undertakings are too daunting for the trio to tackle.
Keyboard Magazine
May 2006

UNSIGNED ARTIST OF THE MONTH

For many keyboardists, there's nothing more satisfying to hear than a B-3 beautifully played. Ken Lovern’s Organ Jazz Trio is a wholly satisfying disc for just that reason. Though it’s clear that Ken has a solid groove, creative sense of melody, and the chops to make it all sing, one if the real highlights here is his mastery of the drawbars; the OJT’s organ tone changes constantly and fluidly within the framework of a song or solo, adding an unexpected layer of expressiveness to Ken’s playing. Original tracks like “OJT Theme” and “Swirlies” show a good deal of compositional maturity as well, and the group’s cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is surprisingly cool, funky, and sophisticated.

Michael Gallant
www.kenlovern.com
OJT + B
Subject(s): Jardine's, OJT + B
Left to their own devices, Ken Lovern and his jazz organ trio — with guitarist Brian Baggett and drummer Kevin Frazee — are consummate players who use every inch of open space to prove it. But as the backing unit for soul-jazz vocalist Bukeka Shoals, Lovern's OJT goes the restrained route. As a result, OJT + B equals a schooled R&B experience that mixes in a bit of Motown mojo with vintage vocal jazz. Shoals ably channels Ella Fitzgerald, but she's also not afraid to represent her own generation by covering Michael Jackson and other maestros of modern pop.

By Richard Gintowt
Published: January 3, 2008

Details:
OJT + B. Monday, January 7, at Jardine's.
OJT promises greasy time at Jazz & Beyond
By JOE KLOPUS
The Kansas City Star

Ken Lovern at a previous gig in the Blue Room. His trio and singer Bukeka Shoals play Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church. Kansas City has its greasy food and its greasy music. And in music, at least, grease is good for the soul.

That’s why the next installment of the Jazz & Beyond concert series is so appealing. It features the greasy sound of the Hammond B-3 organ, as Ken Lovern’s OJT (that’s Organ Jazz Trio) and singer Bukeka Shoals provide an evening of high-calorie music.

This group’s sound has the gritty feel of ’60s soul jazz and the urgency of today, with Lovern coaxing a wild variety of colors from the B-3 and his bandmates grooving like crazy.

There’s the dependable whump of Kevin Frazee’s drumming, pushing the music, keeping the groove deep and centered. The guitar work of Brian Baggett is unfettered and imaginative, stretching the sound in all kinds of inventive ways.

Then there are the contributions of Shoals, an authoritative, big-voiced belter who comes from the gospel-singing tradition but is able to sling musical grease with the best of them. She has vocal power to spare, but it’s always at the service of taste, control and musical intelligence. It’s hard to imagine a better singer for this band.

Lovern, Shoals and the OJT make great barroom music. But in this concert setting, with no distractions, it should be even more down-home, greasy fun.
Pete Fallico:  Here we are in the Doodlin’ Lounge and Ken Lovern with us…Are you in Kansas City, Ken?
Ken Lovern:  I am
PF:  Yeah, our guest tonight here in the Doodlin’ Lounge; our first visit with you.  We’ve got the music Ken and we’ve been listening to it; playing it from time to time.  This is a treat for our listening audience now to find out who you are and how you got to this space.  You started off on piano or organ?  Or you tell us…
KL:  Mostly piano… I came up taking piano lessons as a kid and by the time I was in junior high, I was playing in rock bands and had a Yamaha Electratone organ and a Wurlitzer or, we used to call them ‘worthless-ers’ but now they’re pretty valuable…
PF:  Anything is, yeah…
KL:  And…played in rock bands, doing that stuff; played in high school jazz band; got serious about music, I guess, toward the end of high school; played in college jazz band and at a JCCC, Johns County Community College - a community college here… then went to a UMKC; Univerity of Missouri Kansas City; played in a jazz band there and combos.  By that time I was doing a lot of gigs; playing keyboards at the time and a DX7; a Korg DSS1 and always played organ patches and occasionally would get to play a real Hammond at jams around town.  But it was really later in life… I kinda got out of playing for a while.  I was a professional musician for several years after college; kinda got out of it; went back to school; got a day-job.  And then, I was getting a little older; I got a Hammond organ and it totally re-lit the fire under me; I quit my day-job; started playing gigs again and practicing all the time.
PF:  Well, surely you had been listening to the Hammond organ sound through all that musical experience, right Ken?
KL:  Oh yeah… and I kinda came to it a little bit from the rock end.  Frank Zappa was some of the first instrumental – I guess what I would consider instrumental-jazz-type-stuff… and listened to the organ players in ‘Yes’ and “Genesis’ and ‘Kansas’ and ‘ELP’ and those guys.  And that’s what, initially, was my initial exposure to the Hammond organ sound.  Like Greg Rollie played with Santana and those guys were, initially, my exposure to it.  I didn’t really discover the Jazz Organ stuff ‘til I was in my twenties.
PF:  You’re talking from Kansas City, right?
KL:  That’s right.
PF:  No area in and around there but the Kansas City proper where Everette Devan was playing.
KL:  That’s right, that’s right… I was playing in a jazz group in my early twenties and Everette was still doing a house-gig at a place called the ‘Epicurian’ which was kinda of a ‘chitlin circuit’ place… like toward the end of that… but it was an organ room in Kansas City at 75th and Truste and a band - it was with a singer I was working with named Roma Firman who later, I think, relocated to the Bay Area as the ‘Braisen Hussie’.  That was her stage name but she took us in there and we played a jam session at Everette’s gig and that was the first time I got to hear him play jazz organ and saw that in person.  That was really cool.
PF:  Oh yeah, I can just imagine; such a great guy; was he a teacher in fact.  Did he sit you down and show you the stops?
KL:  Not really… At that time, I just kinda got up and played his organ and really… it was years later that I really came back to the Hammond.  When I did come back to the Hammond organ and really got into it, he was one of two people I took a lesson from… and really got a few ‘lightbulbs’ from him as far as the way to treat the volume pedal and some of those things.
PF:  Oh, so many little subtleties and nuances that you pick up just from watching the masters and thr guys that have been playing years and years on the Hammond organ…and the use of their Leslie; all that stuff; it’s a process; a learning process.  Wouldn’t you agree?
KL:  Oh yeah, it’s a completely different instrument from playing keyboards, I mean, the function in the band is completely different; being the bass player and covering the bass lines is the primary function.  If that’s not happening, good luck with anything else.  That has been one of the things that’s really excited me over the last ten years as I’ve sort of re-oriented at being an organ player rather than a keyboard player or piano player.  Everette is a master of the bass line and of the groove.  I’ve seen the best organ players around and his groove is as happenin’ as anybody’s.
PF:  Well, since we’re talking so much about Everette tonight, we’ll have to slip one of his tracks in, too.  But we’re so proud of having your organ jazz trio music and we’re going to talk to you in our next segment more about the group that we’re listening to.  Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ken Lovern with us; our special guest in the Doodlin’ Lounge… We’ll be right back with you.

PF:  Music comes from Ken Lovern…
Ken, thanks again for spending some time with us.  Let’s talk a little bit about your working group.  How long have you been together with guitarist Brian Baggett and drummer Kevin Frazee?
KL:  We’ve been working together about five years now.  I had a steady gig with a group called the ‘Soulcats’ and that had some different personnel in it and four or five years ago Kevin and Brian became the band there, on that gig.  It was just a steady Thursday night gig down at the Plaza in Kansas City.  At the time, we were still calling it the ‘Soulcats’ and I started recording some of my original tunes with that group and that’s when I started recording my tunes, then we started calling the group – we switched the name of the group to Ken Lovern’s OJT or OJT.
PF:  I like that:  On The Job Training – OJT…
KL:  Yeah… ‘Organ Jazz Trio’… ‘Organ Jazz Tonight’… ‘On the Job Training’…
PF:  It all works… Hey listen…While we’re on the subject of playing in that area:  Do you have a steady in Kansas City?  Is there a spot where visitors to your town can consistently hear jazz organ?  Do you show every week?
KL:  Right now we’ve got something going on about once a month at a jazz club called Jardines… and we’re doing a Wednesday in January the 24th.  Then we’re doing the third Monday of every month from then on, for a while.
PF:  All right
KL:  I’m really hoping to get a steady.  I’d like to get a steady gig.  I’ve even got an organ that I’ll leave there, you know…  That’s a goal of mine.
PF:  I know what you’re talking about.  It’s so much easier to have the organ there in stead of muscling it up steps and in and out of vans.  But then, again, you wonder:  Is somebody, during the week, going to trash your organ…or step on a tube?  It’s drama that has gone on now for what, 40 years -30 years… and we just keep doing it, those of us who love the sound of the Hammond organ and like ‘the furniture’.
KL:  Oh yeah…
PF:  …as opposed to the keyboards and the synthesizers.  I’m glad it’s back and I’m sure you are, too.  But here we are, back into digital sound again and all the clones.  How do you feel about the Hammond clones?
KL:  Well, I like the real deal.  I typically – If I can’t get an organ into a room I just won’t do a gig there with the organ group.  I don’t usually use a VK7 or any of the ‘wannabes’.  One of the things about using the real organ is – the way that it’s set up – it’s its own instrument, you know, you’ve got the pedals; you’ve got the two manuals; you’ve got all the vibrato controls; the drawbar controls…and all that’s set up in a way that – It’s easy to be expressive on.  It’s very easy to manipulate and certainly once you get use to it, that’s the deal.  And when you switch that onto a single manual keyboard or without the pedals, you just loose so much.  Now they’ve got the two manuals with the keyboards, you know, digital things like that.  I haven’t played a lot of those.  That would be better, I guess.  I just really like the warmth of the tubes is my other thing.  
PF:  I hear you…
KL:  And I hear the difference.  I really don’t get back what I want, vibration-wise, from digital keyboards whether it comes to a piano sound or, especially, an organ sound… to my ear.  It just doesn’t vibrate right to me.  I’m pretty – I mean, like that’s one of my main criteria for whether I’ll take a gig or not, you know… Can I play organ?
PF:  We like your attitude… Ken Lovern with us tonight in the Doodlin’ Lounge.  Incidentally, do you have a good tech out there –if you do have problems with your Leslie or Hammond – do you take it to somebody?  And give that person some credit.
KL:  Yeah, I’ve got a great tech and his names’ Rick Prevalet and he’s got a parts business at tonewheelgeneral.com.  Yeah, Rick and I have been friends for, gosh, six-seven years.  I’ve purchased organs and Leslies from him and he’s done a lot of custom work.  I like to have a Leslie switch on the foot pedal in addition to the hand switch and he’s added some of those for me… and really just helped me with a lot of the maintenance.  And he’s been very cool about showing me how to do it myself which is helpful for things that come up repeatedly.  
PF:  Very good!  Ken Lovern with us here in the Doodlin’ Lounge this Monday night.  Your name came up the other night.  I spent New Years Eve in Seattle when Kevin Mohagony was there and, of course, you’ve got to run around with him once in a while, huh?
KL:  Oh yeah, Kevin and I played gigs years ago.  He had a band called ‘Mahogony’ and we played some jazz standards; we played a chunk of Al Jarreau stuff.  We did just a little bit of R & B.  It was just a great band; it was pretty adventurous, kinda of a fusion/jazz band and… with him singing.  That was a real gas and whenever I hear his voice on the radio, it’s so distinctive.  He’s got such a great instrument.  (I) was able to hear him play – he did a show at the Lawrence Arts Center a couple of years ago and our organ group played in the lobby.  It was so fun – we’d get to play and then we’d go listen to his trio and that was just a gas.
PF:  Yeah, we might have to throw one of his tracks on here tonight…but more recently, you’re performing or at least you’re bringing the vocalist Bukeka Shoals…
KL:  That’s right Bukeka Shoals
PF:  We’re going to step away with your permission, Ken, and listen to a track featuring vocalist Bukeka Shoals, right now in the Doodlin’ Lounge and then we’re going to come back and ask you all about her, all right?
KL:  Right on…

PF:  The music comes from OJT; that’s Organ Jazz Trio… Ken Lovern’s group with either – well we’ve got two drummers on some of this:  Todd Strait – you’ll have to tell us about Todd – and Kevin Frazee, as well as guitarist, Brian Baggett.  Also, Stan Kessler:  trumpet and flugelhornist.  Tell us first about Bukeka Shoals and how she came into your Organ Jazz Trio.
KL:  Well, I’ve known Bukeka for years.  We’ve done a variety of gigs together… a lot of them at Unity Church of Overland Park where I’ve played organ there for years.  And she’s got a gig that she books under CVE Entertainment and she’s been touring with Alita Adams recently over in the Netherlands.  Bukeka and I have just been friends and done lots of different gigs and a couple of years ago, I was just brain-storming for ideas of how to get the organ group working more and one of the ideas was (to) get a great female vocalist to get up and sing some jazz tunes with us.  One thing I like to do is take more modern pop tunes and give them that organ-jazz-treatment.  So every song we play isn’t a fifty year old standard, you know, some of the stuff is more recent tunes… and try and give those an organ-jazz-treatment.  I kinda mentioned that to Bukeka – not knowing how excited she’d be about it or what she’d think- and she was totally into it; enthralled.  And so, we jumped right into it; recorded nine tunes in one night – you know, we went in and did it all in one night – and came up with a CD and released that this Fall.  We’ve been doing gigs, back since like in August with her and it’s just been a gas.  We did New Year’s Eve at Jardines and played at the Blue Room, here at the American Jazz Musuem in Kansas City and I’ve just been having a ball playing with her.
PF:  Oh, this is great… and evidenced by the music we’re hearing tonight in the Doodlin’ Lounge.  We should also mention the myspace.com/ojtplusb which, of course, is the myspace where you can read more about Bukeka.  And your web site:  give us the official Ken Lovern site.
KL:  That’s just  "http://www.kenlovern.com" and that’s kinda my main web site and I’ve got a lot of mp3s up there and I’ve got the vocal stuff; I’ve got the instrumental stuff up there.  And then there’s another myspace page that is my page and they’re all linked from the kenlovern.com (page).  On the myspace page, I tend to put up new live recordings and new tunes on that.  For some reason I kinda treat that as like:  let’s put up the stuff we’ve been doing recently.
PF:  Isn’t this an amazing time we’re living in Ken?  The whole phenomenon of ‘myspace’ and how the musicians have taken over that and it’s become such an important conduit between folks; networking; finding out who’s where and what they’re doing.  It’s just and exciting time and playing the jazz organ is really good because it was in hiatus for so long; now it’s resurrected.  They kids are even putting their own stamp on it – not even speaking about the jam-band groups – but the new kids interested in jazz organ are taking what the Jimmy Smith tradition was all about and putting their own signature on it.  Such as yourself, Ken… This music is great and we want to commend you and congratulate you and wish you all the very best luck in this 2007 year.
KL:  Thanks so much, Pete, and thanks for all you do.  I’ve been following the Doodlin’ Lounge online and listening to your show and it’s just so great to hear all the people you give some exposure to and give a voice to.  Thanks for all your work in preserving and promoting jazz organ over the years.
PF:  Oh, thank you… Mr. Ken Lovern tonight here in the Doodlin’ Lounge.  Thanks so much Ken.
KL:  Thank you…
‘ojt + b’

Most of the time, the quickest way to mess up a good instrumental jazz band is to add a singer. But we have a brilliant exception to that rule in Kansas City.

Organist Ken Lovern’s OJT (that’s Organ Jazz Trio), with guitarist Brian Baggett and drummer Kevin Frazee, is one of the most exciting units in town. These days they’re working with singer Bukeka Shoals, a gospel-inspired belter whose taste and control put many others to shame.

One well-placed note from Shoals can do more than dozens of notes from soul-singer wannabes. She has an enviably wide range, so in the register where others are shrieking, she’s singing real, true notes.

The band’s grooves are sweetly old-school and subversively funky. Lovern’s organ playing keeps everything centered and moving forward. Baggett’s flow seems unstoppable, and Frazee’s grooves go deep.

You can hear this on the CD they’re releasing, “OJT + B.”

Lovern and Shoals are having a CD release party at 8 p.m. Friday at the Center for Spiritual Living, 1306 W. 39th St. For $7 you can hear a 90-minute concert; for $15 you can hear the concert and take home the CD. For tickets, contact Lovern at (913) 579-1061 or .com.
OJT+B:
Bukeka Shoals with
Ken Lovern's OJT

(Organ Jazz Trio)
Personnel: Bukeka Shoals, vocals; Ken Lovern, Hammond organ; Brian Baggett, guitar; Kevin Frazee, drums.

Tracks: Big Yellow Taxi, ‘T Ain't Nobody's Bizness, Night and Day, Never Can Say Goodbye, Fat Daddy, Middle of the Road, God Bless the Child, Venus, I Loves You Porgy

Recorded, engineered, and mastered by Ryan Kleeman. Produced by Ken Lovern and Ryan Kleeman. Music arranged by Ken Lovern. Vocal arrangement on “Middle of the Road” by Bukeka Shoals. Jazz Daddy Records, 2006.

On track three of this new album, the classic “Night and Day,” Ken Lovern's Organ Jazz Trio (OJT) begins with a melodic tom-tom introduction in which Bukeka Shoals, the featured vocalist on the album, sings a haunting version of a lost first verse from this classic tune. The group's sensitivity to this verse verges on musical theatre with the “tick-tock of the clock” of the verse coming also from the organ and drums. Lovern said that the group tried hard to represent what was happening in the lyrics in the instrumentals that back them. He mentioned imitating the clock's tick tock, and he also spoke of the lost verse.

“You don't usually hear that verse,” said Lovern, “and that adds a lot to that tune.” And the tune is exquisite in its blend of instrumentals and words. This tune represents the album's overall seamless juxtaposition of old and new, classic and pop, and blues and jazz. Plus, it is accessible. Half of the album is jazz standards, and half of the album is pop tunes.

“We tried to take things that folks have been hearing on the radio in the past 30 years,” said Lovern. “I think it is fun to do recent pop music with a jazz treatment.”

Tunes range in genre and feel from the folk tune of the ‘60s, “Big Yellow Taxi,” and the tune Dinah Washington made famous in the ‘50s, “Fat Daddy,” to “Venus” of the ‘80s, and the more standard Gershwin/Hayward tune “I Loves You Porgy” or Holiday/Herzog's “God Bless the Child.”

“It's good-time music,” Lovern said, “music for the people.” This sums up well the appeal of the album, which is jazzy, with numerous great solos by Lovern and guitarist Brian Baggett, but also with an attention to the hard, bluesy groove Bukeka brings to the album. It is a groove complimented well by Lovern's organ work, which is mellow but driving, and always upbeat.

Although the organ trio—with organ, guitar, and drums—is not entirely unique in the jazz world, since groups like Wes Montgomery's had this configuration, Lovern said that adding a singer makes the group unique. Lovern called the combination of an organ jazz trio with a vocalist a “warmer, unique sound.” He added that the bluesy feel of the group, including a dynamic vocalist, has granted a wider appeal in terms of the group's audiences. Speaking of how some audience members are drawn mainly to the human voice, and not to the instrumentalists, and come primarily to hear the singer, Lovern said, “People relate to the singer.” With Bukeka in the line up, Lovern said that more of the mass of his typical audiences seem to stay longer during the breadth of each set. Some people just love a singer, I guess. However, this says a lot for Bukeka's strong vocal presence as well.

Also, the pop element is exciting, and it is a draw. In some ways, bringing contemporary pop tunes into the jazz idiom has become, for some, a lost art. However, guitarist Brian Baggett appreciates this fusion of contemporary music and jazz standards in their sound.

“The distinction…between pop and jazz used to be a fuzzy line,” said Baggett. “It's nice to see people like Ken arrange pop music for jazz trios.”

The OJT+B will hold CD release parties on Fri., Aug. 18, at the Center for Spiritual Living, and Mon., Sept. 25, at Jardine's. Oh, and you can listen to tunes from the album at www.myspace.com/ojtplusb or www.KenLovern.com .
jazz town

KC organist can’t escape the grooves

By JOE KLOPUS

The Kansas City Star


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.”


Posted on Thu, Oct. 20, 2005
Ken Lovern's OJT (Organ Jazz Trio)
Jazz Daddy
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.

—Tristan Smith
jazz townConcerts highlight events to rememberBy JOE KLOPUSThe Kansas City Star2005 won’t be remembered as the year Kansas City finally got it right about the importance of jazz, past, present and future.
Still there were bursts of progress, such as the appearance of a wonderful new club. And there were little setbacks, such as when that same club cut itself off from jazz.
Overall it was another year of treading water.
Yet there was one huge piece of progress: Finally Kansas City’s lack of a truly inclusive jazz festival of international status was remedied. The first Rhythm & Ribs festival, held in June at 18th and Vine, was a sweet success, spanning music from Kenny Garrett to the Blind Boys of Alabama. And the event has the potential to be even better.
The long-awaited publication of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop — A History, by Chuck Haddix and Frank Driggs, brought more attention to Kansas City and provided a reminder that the world cares about our jazz, even if we don’t.
One of the few radio stations to regularly feature jazz in this town, KCUR, eliminated its only jazz program, a two-hour weekly spot. There wasn’t much of a public outcry. (And for those who did make a fuss: How much of a fuss did you make a few years back when the same station eliminated its five-nights-a-week jazz? That would have been a much better time to complain.)
Nevertheless, and above all, there was music, music, music. Jazz in our clubs every night of the week. Concerts by the dozen.
Here are a few of the jazz memories I’ll carry with me:
■ It’s hard to find words to describe pianist Randy Weston’s January concert at the Gem Theater. The only word is “beautiful” — the music was long-limbed and leisurely, taking plenty of time to unfold, and every second of the ride was worthwhile. Weston’s African rhythms and bebop strategies set each other off in perfect harmony. And trombonist Benny Powell’s solo on “African Sunrise” could break your heart with just a few notes.
■ Composer, saxophonist and elusive genius Wayne Shorter’s appearance at the Gem in October was a testimony to the power of human invention. This show was wild, mysterious and uplifting. Afterward the members of Shorter’s quartet — pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade — seemed to agree that it was one of the group’s best shows in five years of working together.
■ You haven’t heard of guitarist and singer Doug Wamble? Neither had I until not long before his show at the Blue Room in July. Yet this was a soulful journey across the continuum from blues roots to pop songcraft to jazz sophistication. Consider the setlist: tunes by Cole Porter, Mahalia Jackson and Peter Gabriel. He has put the bluesman’s slide and the rocker’s E-bow to work in the service of jazz guitar. And his singing is just magnificent. After the show, someone gave him perhaps the most unusual compliment I’ve ever heard a male musician receive: “You reminded me of Nina Simone.” Wamble was thrilled.
■ Another guy who’s fighting for recognition, sax man Eric Person, turned in a deeply impressive show in November at the Blue Room. Person and his Meta-Four band played with a singleness of purpose that we can never hear enough of. Each player seemed concerned with pushing the others to play their best — and they did.
One thing about all those events: None of them was sold out. There were seats available for every one. In the case of the Weston show, there were hundreds of seats available.
As always, that’s where you come in. We have a great thing going here. Live music every night of the week, played by so many gifted artists that you can never hear them all.
Get out and support live jazz.
Bring a friend. And have that friend bring two other friends.
Noteworthy
■ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., offers Ken Lovern’s energetic and creative OJT (that’s Organ Jazz Trio) at 7 tonight; it’s free. Pianist Charles Williams leads his quartet at 8:30 p.m. Friday, and bassist James Ward leads his hot band at 8:30 p.m. Saturday; cover is $5. The Jazz Disciples are in charge of the Monday jam session, at 7 p.m.; that’s free.