INTERVIEW with DELVON LAMARR of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio!
Out on COLEMINE, "I Told You So" is the record. When you tell your friends to listen to this awesome album THAT is what you can tell them when they hit you back to tell you how FANTASTIC it is.
PHOTO: Francis A.Willey (Novo Productions and Colemine Records)
The Venn diagram of Jazz, Funk, and Soul overlaps with only a few modern groups. Most bands lean one way or another. Some experiment in one direction then veers back in yet another. Seattle's Delvon Lamaar Trio put themselves dead center and pull from these three big chunks of our musical heritage. Like skilled chefs, they may always cook with the same amounts - but let it simmer or season it differently. Their newest Colemine album "I Told You So" just debuted at #1 on the Contemporary Jazz chart, #3 on the Jazz chart, while also qualifying as both a Top Tastemaker and Heatseeker. Delvon dives into his history, how the band came together and where "I Told You So" is about to take them in 2021.
T-BONE'S: On the new album, you guys are really going for a mixture of a Booker T. and Meters feeling. Was the thrust behind "I Told You So," to make a new "instrumental" record that would feel like the next chapter and not just imitate or even dilute previous music?
DELVON LAMARR: I really don't think about it. We just play the kind of music that we like to hear and let the chips fall where they may. One of our goals was to use our music to get people who wouldn't normally listen to Jazz to start listening to it. Maybe if they dig the style of our music, maybe that will encourage listeners to dig deeper into the music and start to uncover more music they like that you didn't even know existed. But at the end of the day, some people are going to love it, some people may not like it and some people think it's just OK. I don't pay attention to that much because different people have different tastes and I don't fault them for that. But we like it so I'll continue to do what we do.
T-BONE'S: When you were writing these songs, I imagine the original jams they were derived from were much longer. How do you know when you are jamming from X-> Y-> Z just when to trim things down and make that transition?
DELVON: Most of our tune ideas were written while we were on the road. That's generally how we write our music since we don't live close to each other and we never really have time to rehearse so we do it all live. We come up with basic ideas for new tunes during soundchecks and sometimes add another piece to it on the next soundcheck. Being that when we're playing music together so much when we're on the road, we're really tuned in to each other and that affects the way the music feels.
T-BONE'S: What were the inspirations going into making this album? Is there some "secret science" to hitting all the hallmarks of a great instrumental album? (I'm thinking "Call Your Mom" is kind of your "strut," while "Girly Face" is kind of that "slow frug" number like the Meters' "This Is My Last Affair," and you sneak in a more modern "slow-roller" like a Hip-Hopper would enjoy)
DELVON: No secrets at all. We just went in and did what we do. We just played how we felt and the outcome is what you hear.
T-BONE'S: To the organ itself. You were originally a drummer and trumpet player. How did you discover the organ and learn to play it so well - in your own style?
DELVON: I have never had any formal lessons. I'm completely self-taught. I learned how to play by going out and doing it. I used to hang out with some of the older musicians and just jam with them. That was my musical education. How I got into playing the organ is, I got the call from a guitarist Dan Heck who had a band with Seattle Organist Joe Doria, to sub for their drummer who had gone on tour with a different band. We played every Wednesday at this club called The Art Bar in downtown Seattle and that was my first experience with the Hammond Organ outside of the church. One day a drummer comes in and sits in and I asked Joe if I could play the organ. When I sat down on the organ I literally played it like I've played it my whole life.
T-BONE'S: The genesis of the DLO3 starts with you playing in the Seattle scene, do you remember the point where you just knew you had to get your own band going?
DELVON: This band was actually created by my wife Amy Novo. She is the owner, founder & manager of Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. The whole concept of this band was her idea. I didn't want my own band. I just wanted to be a sideman and not worry about anything else. But as my wife watched me struggle as a musician, not going anywhere and being on the edge of quitting music altogether, she told me to get some guys together and write some music and I'll take care of all the rest. She said that for years before I accepted. My first call was to drummer David McGraw, the guitarist Collin Higgins because I like their style. Amy got us a weekly gig at a club called The Royal Room in Seattle and that's where we started. During that time Collin was getting busy with his other project Cecil Moses & the SG and decided to depart from the band. So I called up Jimmy James and that was the beginning of a whole 'nother thing.
T-BONE'S: How did you get hooked up with Colemine? Also, you have put out some blazing singles - how important is THAT song when you find it?
DELVON: I discovered Colemine Records through Kelly Finnigan (Colemine Artist). We were invited to the show by my good friend Ben Bloom (guitarist for Polyrhythmics) who was in the opening band. He played in Seattle with his group Monophonics and we ended up hanging out. That was the first time I heard of Colemine. A few months later we did a double bill with The Dip who was also on Colemine at the time. So my wife had a conversation with their manager and gave them our album to give to Colemine. From there it was all Amy Novo magic.
T-BONE'S: This is a weird question, but I have to ask. Bands depend heavily on their own language to easily communicate how you share the vision of a song or a performance. What is an example of the verbiage within the DLO3?
DELVON: We say our music is "Feel Good' music. But when we do our thing we just say "Dope."
T-BONE'S: When you recorded the album I'm guessing it was set the mics up and roll tape right? is there any song on "I Told You So" that came out of nowhere and even took you by surprise?
DELVON: The song that came out of nowhere was "Right Place, Right Time." While in the studio, our friend Ben Bloom (guitarist of Polyrhythmics) came in. I asked him if he had his guitar and he said yes. He went and grabbed it and then we wrote this song on the spot. Most of the songs on the "I Told You So" album was not fully written when we started recording them. We had to write a lot of it in between songs.
T-BONE'S: "Careless Whisper" - how did you choose that? How did you envision it? It almost feels like a completely different song. Honestly, your organ lead on the melody is poignant and THEN you just let the full chords bubble up behind Jimmy.
DELVON: Every time we play Careless Whisper at a show the crowd goes nuts. It's also the number one requested song by my wife. She asks us to play that song at the end of the night at almost every show and she's the one who asked us to record it. At first, I was hesitant about recording it. I thought it was good to do live but not on a recording cause I didn't think anyone would want to hear it. Boy was I wrong. LOL
T-BONE'S: Our review tries to describe your method as "underplay/interplay" (which you may please correct me on -- if need be) because, in the beginning, it's all about setting the tone first AND then the instrumental tradeoffs and prowess help build tension in the song. Do you guys approach it like Jazz players with the whole "8-bar solo/meet you at the head" process OR is there a traditional songwriting element of Verse/Chorus/Verse/Break/Bridge//and then you renew the hook and bring it home?
DELVON: I think all three of us approach the music differently and that's what makes our sound familiar but unique at the same time. For example, I approach the music from the standpoint of a more traditional jazz organist. Playing bass lines with the organ bass pedals, left-hand bass while playing chords and melodies at the same in the same vein as Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, etc. While Jimmy James comes from more of a Stax, Motown, and Blues style of playing. Cats like Robert White, Steve Cropper, Buddy Guy, etc. Then there's Dan Weiss (our new permanent drummer. Not on the "I Told You So" album). He brings more of the'70s to the modern style of playing. Cats like David Garibaldi, James Gadson, Adam Deitch, etc. And the multiple styles of the band members is one of the reasons our music appeals to a very broad audience.
T-BONE'S: You did some of these songs live before COVID right? How were they accepted live? Every song on "I Told You So" contains such immediacy no matter how many times you listen.
DELVON: We recorded the "I Told You So" album in November 2019. It was originally supposed to be released in March 2020 but the pandemic hit and we pushed it back to the fall of 2020 because we wanted to tour the album. But the pandemic got worse so we decided to release it no matter what in January 2021, regardless if we were able to tour or not. So far the reception has been great. On February 9th, 2021 the album hit Billboard Charts: #1 on the Contemporary Jazz Album chart, #3 on the Jazz Album chart, #4 on the Tastemaker Album chart, and #12 on the Heatseeker Album chart.
T-BONE'S: In the beginning, you charted with your self-made debut. How thrilling was that? (being seen by the world for your full value - not a connection, or marketing plan - just the purity of music.)
DELVON: It was a trip. I was at home, hanging out on the toilet...LOL, when my wife busted in the door and yelled that we were on the Billboard Charts. I didn't believe it at first so I Googled it and there it was. And then again with the "Live At KEXP" album and now the "I Told You So" album. It feels really good.
T-BONE'S: Is it safe to say that it is the "purity of music" that drives the DLO3?
DELVON: I would say so. It goes back to what I said earlier. We play the kind of music that we like to hear and when you do that it makes the music personal and naturally it will feel different.
T-BONE'S: Do you remember when you played that first show where the audiences started showing up knowing all the songs?
DELVON: I don't know the first show but I do remember a unique one-time experience. When we were on our tour in Valencia, Spain, we were approached by some cats that had a band. They were excited to share with us that they cover some of our music and showed us videos of them playing some of them. They even covered songs we had not released yet. That was truly a special moment for me.
T-BONE'S: When we get back to playing shows again, are you guys just going out on the road as you are - bringing the heat to all of us?
DELVON: Absolutely. We will always bring it. We can't do it any other way.
T-BONE'S: Any more songs in the oven to release? A single? Surprises to throw into another Live album?
DELVON: We still have over 60 studio recordings and some live recordings in the can. Enough music to be released over the next several years.
T-BONE'S: Finally, in close. What is your message to new fans of the DLO3 who have just discovered you?
DELVON: Welcome to the DLO3 family. We work hard to bring 'Feel Good' music to our fans worldwide and look forward to playing live for y’all in the near future.
Big thanks to Amy Novo and Delvon as well as the DLO3. Thank you also to Colemine Records and Secretly Distribution. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio has a slew of awesome singles and their records “Live on KEXP” and “Close But No Cigar” are also recommended.
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