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Big John Patton Dies at 66

Big John Patton, an organ player who recorded many soul-jazz albums for Blue Note in the 1960s, died on Tues., Mar. 19 of complications from diabetes and kidney malfunction. He was 66.

Born in Kansas City, Mo. in 1935, Patton taught himself how to play piano (with some instruction from his mother) and in 1954 joined R&B singer Lloyd Price’s touring band, a job he kept until moving to New York in 1959. Patton’s move to New York was not the only change he made that year; he also switched instruments, from piano to the Hammond B-3 organ. Throughout the ’60s Patton recorded for Blue Note and released eleven albums on the label, many of them featuring groove-guitar guru Grant Green. Outside the studio, Patton played in the bands of Green and saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Clifford Jordan. Patton also maintained a reputation in the avant-garde scene, playing with trombonist Grachan Moncur III and Sun Ra Arkestra saxophonists John Gilmore and Marshall Allen. In the 1970s, as organ-fueled jazz became less and less popular, Patton stopped recording, but in the early ’80s John Zorn invited him to play on The Big Gundown, an Ennio Morricone tribute album. Patton recorded an album for the Nilva label in 1983 and recorded three albums in the ’90s, all of which featured Zorn as a player or producer.

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