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Chops: Brian Charette on Five Essential Jazz Organists

Breaking down the styles and sounds of the B3 masters

Brian Charette organist and expert on organists (photo by Anna Yatskevic)
Brian Charette (photo by Anna Yatskevic)

This piece might have been called “Mission Impossible”: Selecting just five essential jazz organists from such a rich and still-thriving tradition was no easy feat, but I managed to select the players I thought were the most important—the foundational musicians that aspiring organists simply need to study. Here I’ll outline some key elements of their styles as well as the sound settings most associated with them.

I will use a string of nine numbers to refer to the drawbar settings of the different artists. For example, 888000004 means the first three drawbars are pulled all the way out and the last one halfway out. Besides the drawbars, other controls discussed include the vibrato scanner, which should be set to the C3 setting in all but one of the examples. And there is a percussion function that adds a sharp “plink” tone when engaged.

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