Organ trio keeps it cool at the Dive Bar

All music has connotations, and nothing evokes “cool” like an organ trio. Comprised of drums, guitar and a Hammond B-3 organ, the musicians have room to experiment and move around, filling in gaps when an instrument breaks into a lengthy solo. But no matter what instrument has taken the spotlight for the moment, it all comes back to the organ.

“The first time I heard [the organ] and discovered the organ trios I fell in love with it,” says Bill Connor, a local organ servicer and drummer for the Dive Bar’s new organ trio in residence on Wednesday nights.

The Hammond B-3 is not your regular keyboard. Connor explains that when playing the B3, the performer is really controlling four parts at once: keys, pedals, buttons and drawbars that pull out of the organ’s body, shifting the timbre of each note.

“It’s a monster, but it can be anything. It depends how you control it,” Connor says.

Organist Eli Winderman was attracted to the B-3 for the same reason. “It’s a great feeling. You’re in control.”

He brings up the draw bars. “You mix and match different sounds. There are endless possibilities with these. When you’re listening to an organ you wonder, ‘What draw bars are out right now?’”

Connor and Winderman first met outside a club and talked about their interest in playing the organ. Soon after, Winderman, who lives in Boston, is a Berkley grad and plays organ in his own Boston-based band Dopapod, was working with Connor in his Worcester shop. The two of them decided to start playing music together, inviting Johnny Trama to add guitar, and moved a Hammond B-3 that Connor built into the Dive’s collection of instruments and amps.

“I donated it, but it’s technically for sale. But I don’t think it’s something someone will snatch up. If they do I told Alec [Lopez, Dive Bar’s owner] I’ll bring in another one,” Connor says.

The location was clear from the beginning. “This last year it seems like more and more of our music has been based around the organ — a lot of funk and jazz,” says Lopez, “Eli is the happiest man in the world right now, since he usually has to lug that stuff from Boston.

“The Hammond has kind of opened that door for us to do something special,” he continues. “Dive has evolved in the past year. This next year will legitimize the Dive as a music venue for world-class musicians.”

Connor also cites the Dive Thursday music series as inspiration for leaving his organ there. “It’s a cool place because you go there and you know you’re going to see something good. He [Lopez] doesn’t have music just to have music.”

Notes Lopez: “My philosophy with music is the same as it was at the beginning: it has to be exceptional. If it’s not good it doesn’t have to be there.”

When asked how long the trio’s residency will last, Winderman gives a fitting answer for an organist — open-ended and laid back. “It’s gonna go until it ends,” he says with a laugh.

Bill Connor, Eli Winderman and Johnny Trama perform every Wednesday night at the Dive Bar, 34 Green St., no cover charge. Also, Winderman’s Dopapod opens for Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse at Tammany Hall on Friday, Dec. 11. For more info go to myspace.com/dopapod.

 

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