CEOs will sneer, but the Great Recession hasn’t been all bad news for the musical-instrument industry. For one, the tighter times seem to be keeping the research-and-development departments in check. Over the past couple years at Winter NAMM, the industry’s big North American tradeshow, that’s meant more practical innovation and thoroughly planned product launches and fewer toys and baubles. Here are some of the best products heard at the 2014 show, held at the Anaheim Convention Center Jan. 23-26. (And in case you were wondering, the award for the most surreal impromptu NAMM band went to guitarist Alex Skolnick, heavy metal bassist Rudy Sarzo, drummer Scott Amendola and Robert Randolph, on lap steel.)
Hammond USA had a tremendous tradeshow, celebrating its 80th anniversary and the launch of the Hammond Hall of Fame-which I voted in-with an all-star concert at one of the main hotels. Getting the swing and groove going were jazz organists Brian Charette, Ron Oswanski (in a trio featuring saxophonist Tim Ries) and a couple genuine icons, drummer Bernard Purdie and Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Keith Emerson, a member of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. (At a private Hall of Fame reception, Emerson brought Jack McDuff’s captain’s hat to the podium.) Also in the inaugural group (but not present in Anaheim) was Dr. Lonnie Smith, who received from Hammond a limited-edition Sk2 signature organ with a custom-engraved Jatoba side panel and the Dr.’s custom presets.