New Originals for the Green Lady is the fourth album length release by the Kansas City group OJT (organ jazz trio). This release features original compositions by Ken Lovern and Brian Baggett and one completely improvised piece titled Back Yard Improv Jam.
Innovative Kansas City artist Nina Irwin created unique cover art specifically for this album. Nina is known for her delicate dreamlike landscapes, her beautiful use of color, and her multi layered treatment of surfaces. The artwork is particularly striking on the vinyl album cover.
OJT New Originals for the Green Lady
Individual Track Notes by Ken Lovern:
Lamanai is an ancient Mayan city in Belize that I visited a few years ago with my family. It was a very awe inspiring trip, and I composed this song upon our return. Whenever we play this tune, I think of taking the boat up the river to the site. There are pyramids, monoliths, and ball fields. The site is quite remarkable.
Going to Chi Town is Brian Baggett’s rhythm changes tune with a nod to the Deep Blue Organ Trio from Chicago. We are fans of that band, and we all enjoy listening to them.
Scoo Ba Dit is one of my more long form compositions. My thought was to capture the vibe of one of our extended group improvisations, moving from different rhythmic feels and different harmonic centers.
Back Yard Improv Jam is just that. We recorded this record in my backyard studio, and this was an improvised jam done at the end of a recording session where we had played all of our compositions about as many times as we could stand. So, we decided to try something different. This tune was complete group improvisation with no chart or even discussion of what we would play. That is why the composition credit goes to all 3 band members. Kevin Frazee starts it off playing a tongue drum that I brought back from Belize. As for the bird songs, I was mixing the track one day and heard birds singing along. So I set up some microphones and captured the sounds of my backyard birds as well. There are not many jazz recordings with birds on them!
Albert Einstein’s Hair is an older composition of mine. We have been playing this extended jam tune for over 12 years.
Rooftop Blues is an uptempo blues composed by Brian Baggett a few years back when we were doing a rooftop gig at the short lived Bice Lounge in the fledgling Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City.
The Shorter Shuffle is Brian Baggett’s dedication to the great Wayne Shorter. There are a lot of harmonic shifts contained in this gem of tune.
8. Pretty Toasted is a Brian Baggett composition wth a 16 measure form, and it is a staple in our live set lists.
OJT plays grooving, organ jazz arrangements of popular songs from the last few decades with hammond organ, guitar, and drums.
Brian Baggett: Guitar Kevin Frazee: Drums Ken Lovern: Hammond Organ
OJT builds on the classic organ jazz trio by mixing old school Kansas City jazz with blues and a modern funky groove. Ken Lovern on Hammond organ, Kevin Frazee on drums, and Brian Baggett on guitar play equal parts in balanced arrangements with stand out improvisations. OJT has been a band for more than 12 years and it shows.
"New Standards for the Green Lady" is the third album length release by the Kansas City based organ jazz group OJT. While previous releases featured jazz standards and original compositions, New Standards for the Green Lady is a collection of OJT's organ jazz arrangements of familiar pop songs. Selected, arranged, and performed over 2 years for audiences at Kansas City's Green Lady Lounge, OJT plays the music of Steely Dan, The Beatles, Tears for Fears, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, The Grateful Dead, and even Katy Perry. OJT continues its Wednesday and Saturday night house band gigs at Green Lady Lounge with no end in sight.
"Strong new repertoire."
"The OJT approach features some great grooves." "Brian Baggett . . . nails the guitar riffs, . . . and his solos are highlights throughout, and I mean every track." "Kevin Frazee . . . is solid as a Rockingham." "[Ken's] . . . bass lines absolutely rumble and growl. . . he shines on the solos." "Interplay . . . shows their years working together."
Roger Atkinson, Editor Kansas City Jazz Ambassador Magazine.
Album LIner Notes: "Standards" are the tunes that jazz musicians play. Usually they are mid-20th century Broadway show tunes, or some are original compositions by jazz musicians that have earned the title jazz standard.
When OJT started performing at The Green Lady Lounge in early 2013, we immediately began playing our organ jazz arrangements of hit songs of the last few decades along with our original tunes and standards. The "new" tunes seemed a good fit for the venue and the band
Few, if any, of the tunes on this release could be considered standards. As far as we know, only four of these tunes have previous jazz performances. Eleanor Rigby has been played by Wes Montgomery and others. Bobby Broom did an excellent version of Layla on his album Modern Man, and Charles Earland covered The Way You Make Me Feel. We may have been influenced by some of these versions. The Bad Plus has an esoteric and mellow version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World, but we weren't aware of that until recently. The rest of these tunes began their jazz life at the hands of OJT.
The Green Lady Lounge has a hip retro cocktail vibe that provides the perfect setting for playing jazz. We hope that our treatment of these familiar tunes brings that vibe to your ears.
Produced by Ken Lovern Recording Engineer: Ken Lovern Mix Engineer: Chad Meise Mastering Engineer: Collin Jordan at The Boiler Room All selections arranged by Ken Lovern with additional arranging by Brian Baggett and Kevin Frazee
Photos by Brandon Cale (thepopperazzi.com) Layout by John Scott OJT Logo created by Jon Bidwell
Special thanks to John Scott and the entire staff of The Green Lady Lounge. 1809 Grand, KCMO.
A big thank you to all of the music fans who come to The Green Lady Lounge every week. This music only happens with your help. A big thanks to our families and everyone who encouraged us and helped us with this project. You know who you are and so do we.
Specific thanks to Rick Prevallet of tonewheelgeneral.com for his excellent organ and leslie parts and maintenance.
Kevin Frazee plays Treehouse drums.
Roger Atkinson - Kansas City Jazz Ambassador Magazine (Apr 1, 2015)
New Standards for the Green Lady
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
Funky Hammond Organ Jazz
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
Gospel influenced vocals with a funky organ jazz accompaniment performing traditional jazz standards and pop tunes of more recent vintage.
From the Kansas City Star:
"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.”
From Jazz Ambassador Magazine Aug./Sept. 2006
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.”
Liner Notes from the CD:
Bukeka Shoals has delighted audiences for years with her powerful delivery and uplifting presence. Her compositions have brought joy to many people both through her live performances and her debut record, “Bukeka.” Now, she brings these same qualities to an eclectic and style bending jazz setting by joining with Ken Lovern’s OJT (Organ Jazz Trio) for this set of 9 songs. With original arrangements in that funky organ jazz groove, Bukeka radiates her vocal magic over the superb accompaniment of the OJT. About half the songs are traditional jazz standards, the other half are pop tunes of more recent vintage. Bukeka makes them all her own on this superbly recorded release. Enjoy!
Big Yellow Taxi: A great folk tune from the late 60’s, OJT gives it the old organ jazz shuffle, Kansas City Style. Bukeka makes the vocal melody her own.
T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: The first of several tunes on this recording associated with the inimitable Billy Holiday – Bukeka’s strong vocals, however, owe as much to the legacy of Ella Fitzgerald as Lady Day.
Night and Day: This standard of standards begins with a thundering floor tom introducing the too rarely performed verse. The group employs a Latin feel for the majority of the tune. Check out the fade by the band.
Never Can Say Goodbye: The low notes of the organ bass are a perfect fit this R & B anthem from the early 70’s. The out chorus showcases Bukeka’s improvisational chops. (For added inspiration wag your finger back and forth while singing along, “no, no, no.”)
Fat Daddy: This blues made famous by Dinah Washington in the 1950’s is an ideal vehicle for Bukeka’s storytelling delivery. The solos kick it old school with Brian barking our some blues licks and Ken pulling out the “Wild” Bill Davis stops.
Middle of the Road: The group adapts some 80’s attitude into a boogaloo version of The Pretenders’ working class rocker. Bukeka’s shows her versatility with the harmony parts.
God Bless the Child: The group endeavors to deliver a fresh version of this Billy Holiday classic. Bukeka demonstrates her wide dynamic range in this exciting performance.
Venus: This tune does pre-date the Banarama dance hit of the 80’s. The European group “Shocking Blue” wrote and recorded the initial version. Bukeka and the group pay homage to the booty shakin’ dance ancestry of the tune and groove it all the way through.
I Love’s You Porgy: The final track is a hushed yet powerful version of this sad and beautiful song from Porgy and Bess. This arrangement owes more to the Nina Simone version than the older Billy Holiday jazz adaptation. The group’s delicate ending utilizes the dynamic range possible in the recording studio.