There is nothing like a long-term steady gig for the development of a band’s music. The Green Lady Lounge has provided such a regular stage to OJT. So it is very fitting for OJT to dedicate this collection of original tunes to this great club.
We could hear the results of their residency in the previous OJT release, New Standards for the Green Lady, where they creatively put the OJT mark on songs that were generally outside of the established jazz standard repertoire. On this new set, New Originals for the Green Lady, they bring us their original compositions.
It is often the case that a program of originals will fail to hold my attention. This is not the case. Their jams always go to interesting places. The tunes that are more typical of an organ trio are fresh. Their essential groove is always there.
“Going to Chi Town” and “Rooftop Blues” are both cast in the organ trio tradition. I have spent a few nights at Andy’s Jazz Club and Restaurant in Chicago listening to the Deep Blue Organ Trio. The former is a swinger and a great homage to that band. Ken Lovern’s organ solo is inventive, like when he changes the stops, introduces some repetition and then explodes. e change has the effect of sounding like a second instrument. e latter is a fast swinging blues with fine solos from Lovern and guitarist Brian Baggett. “Pretty Toasted” is another solid four groover. at groove is always there in OJT’s music.
The group is a blast in their jams. My favorite part of an OJT set is what they do on their “OJT Theme.” In that OJT-jam vein, “Scoo Ba Dit” has the rock-solid Kevin Frazee setting the pace for an OJT wailer. Baggett has a funky riff before heading into his solo where he subtly introduces some reverb. They rotate through a couple of themes here, and you never really can tell where they are heading. “Backyard Improv Jam” is exactly that — a totally improvised group jam that opens with Frazee playing a tongue drum that Lovern brought back from a trip to Belize. An organ bass riff is added, Baggett introduces another riff on top which he then develops. Frazee’s cymbal work is superb. “Albert Einstein’s Jam” is an older tune, built from a hypnotic four note riff. A highlight is Frazee’s solo over this riff.
The opener “Lamanai” is Lovern’s tune, inspired by a trip to that ancient Mayan city in Belize. There is a slow (almost sinister) three note phrase that opens the tune that really draws you in. The tempo then speeds up and changes to a Latin jazz inspired 6/8 for the theme, before changing to 11/8 (alternating measures of five and six) during the solos from Baggett and Lovern. The steady eighth note rhythms swing like mad. “The Shorter Shuffle” is exactly that. You can hear the Wayne Shorter
influence right from the start. This has that mid-1960s Blue Note funk-bop sound a la Larry Young.
They are all great tracks. This recording will be on vinyl (my test copy sounds great) with a beautiful original cover from local artist Nina Irwin and on CD (with the last two tunes as bonuses). An early November release is expected. It will be available at CD Baby.
—Roger Atkinson (October 1, 2019)
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.
-September 22, 2015
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 (April 1, 2015)
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.
-January 3, 2008