The Hammond B-3 organ will make one shout “Amen” or keep dancing until the early morning, depending on whether it’s Sunday morning or Saturday night. It is the only instrument that can sound like a funky quartet, big band or gospel choir. However, it seems the powerful music box that jazz musicians took out of the church and turned into a legitimate jazz instrument may have lost some of its luster.
Regardless, Seleno Clarke is carrying on the Hammond B-3 jazz organ tradition in grand style. For him and his fans, the Hammond remains in its glory just as it was in the 1960s, when the kings of the Hammond–Jack McDuff, Richard “Groove” Holmes and Jimmy McGriff–kept Harlem swinging.
Most recently, Clarke was honored with a proclamation by the American Legion Post 398 for his effortless support of the organization by bringing a diverse group of musicians to the Harlem community and keeping jazz alive. Upon accepting the proclamation, Clarke thanked Commander Randy Du Pree and his staff for their dedication to jazz and consistent support over the years.
Clarke and the Legion were celebrating the 14th anniversary of his show, where, every Sunday from 7 p.m. to midnight, he plays a mean organ and hosts his international jam session. Clarke is known as “the Ambassador of Jazz.”
Musicians from around the world have spread the word that when in New York, you have to make it to Harlem for Clarke’s jam. On any Sunday night, musicians from such countries as South America, Europe and Japan wait to show their stuff.
Clarke, basically a self-taught musician, originally played saxophone, studying under George Coleman before moving over to the Hammond B-3 under the tutelage of Jack McDuff.
“It was a lot of practice and hanging out in the clubs, watching the greats like McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes and all those guys,” said Clarke. “Schools don’t teach you how to groove, they just teach theory. Some of the young musicians who come on Sunday are looking to catch that groove.”
There is no cover charge at the American Legion, 248 W. 132nd St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Southern cuisine and drinks can be purchased at a moderate fee. For more information on Clarke or to check out his CDs, visit www.selenoclarke.com.
A young group called Shanto are making a name for themselves in the land of Brooklyn in the Bed-Stuy community. The group’s ages range from 12 to 22 and includes electric bassist Jamel, electric guitarist Sabah, drummer and musical director Rashid and keyboardist-conga player Jamal. Mama Nyash and Aschee are also members of the group.
Jamal, the oldest member, started playing keyboards only three years ago and is attending DeVry College, where he is majoring in engineering. “I love playing music. It gives me a chance to express myself,” said Jamal. “Music is my plan B and engineering is first on my list.”
Shanto has developed a distinct sound, a mix of reggae, soul and world music. Their repertoire only includes original compositions. The band members agreed they like composing new songs as much as playing. It was a cozy gig in the front yard of a brownstone with family and many friends.
Shanto’s manager, Baba Hru-Ur, stated the event was a celebration and fundraiser for the group’s Trinidad tour, set for July. Noted percussionist Menes de Griot, known throughout Brooklyn and internationally, is the group’s mentor. “These young men are like family. I watched them grow up with my grandson, who is the drummer,” he said
Menes de Griot assists them with their music while he instructs them on the business of music and its roots from an African history perspective. He lent his expertise as an established percussionist to the group’s performance. International singer-composer Okaru Lovelace also joined them for one song to the delight of the audience.
To learn more about Shanto and their upcoming debut CD in July, visit them online at Facebook.com/menesdegriot.
Eddie Palmieri, “The Godfather of Salsa and Latin Jazz,” celebrated his 75th birthday with hundreds of devoted fans last week at the River to River Festival in Lower Manhattan in Rockefeller Park. Palmieri’s hypnotic, rhythmic beats had the crowd dancing in no time. His playing was so intense he had to change keyboards. Years ago, the pianist shared with me during an interview that he was a “frustrated drummer.”
The temperature that evening was over 90 and the band was blazing at over 100. Palmieri played with his usual fiery crew: trombonist Conrad Herwig, Jose Claussell on timbales, “Little Johnny” Rivera on congas, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Luques Curtis, saxophonist Louis Fouche, Orlando Vega on bongos and guest trumpeter Philip Dizack.
The crowd shouted out salsa tune requests, but Palmieri replied, “This is a Latin jazz concert. If you want salsa, hum the tunes to yourself. If I sing, everyone will go jump in the river.” When he finally gave in, the crowd went bananas.
From “Azucar Pa’ Ti,” the salsa anthem recorded in 1965, to this 75th birthday, Palmieri remains the explosive genius maestro. To hear samples of his new music, go to EP75.com.