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Hank Marr Dies

Hank Marr, a jazz organist who was profoundly influenced by “Wild” Bill Davis and Jimmy Smith, died Tues., Mar. 16 in Columbus, Ohio. He had been ill for months. He was 77.

Born in Columbus in 1927, Marr began playing piano at an early age and would often jam with childhood friend and saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Marr was originally self-taught and didn’t receive any formal music training until he attended Ohio State University after serving time in the military.

Marr became interested in jazz organ-specifically the Hammond B3-after seeing “Wild” Bill Davis perform at Birdland in New York. But Marr didn’t form his own organ trio until after witnessing the music of the B3’s greatest practitioner, Jimmy Smith, at Atlantic City in the mid-1950s.

King Records, which had enjoyed success with albums by organist Bill Doggett, signed Marr in the early ’60s. He cut seven albums for the label that were indebted to the sounds and styles of Davis and Smith. Eventually Marr would develop his own voice on the organ that explored the instrument’s ability to mimic orchestral- and big-band-like sounds.

Marr continued to play throughout the ’70s and ’80s and, in the ’90s, joined the faculty at Ohio State, eventually becoming an associate professor of jazz studies. He also led a few sessions in the ’90s for the Double-Time label, producing the albums It’s ‘Bout Time, Groovin’ It and Hank & Frank, which featured saxophonist Frank Foster.

Though he never enjoyed national recognition, Marr was a hometown hero. In 1990 the City of Columbus honored him by naming August 12 “Marvelous Hank Marr Day” and the city recently gave him the Continuing Legacy Award as part of its Columbus Music Awards.

Originally Published