Though it’s been a part of jazz from its early days—Fats Waller recorded on it in 1926—the organ occupies a distinctive niche within the music. All the more so since the invention of the electric organ, which Laurens Hammond began marketing in 1935 and which caught on in jazz in the 1950s. Once a certain Philadelphia boogie-woogie pianist got his hands on it, a new jazz tradition was born, a tradition that was (and is) owned by him.
Jimmy Smith’s name frequently recurs in this list, in fact, although he only has one of its 10 entries to himself. But if it’s impossible to talk about jazz organ without Smith, we hope that this list will also demonstrate the broad range of other practitioners and innovators who put their stamp on the instrument.