Originally published in Earshot Jazz March 2015, Vol. 31, No. 3
Last month I dropped in to Joe Doria’s Tuesday night gig with McTuff at the Seamonster. This month, Doria answered my questions via email about mentors and recordings that shaped his musicianship. Where did he learn his craft? What did he hear that influenced his sound?
“I learned piano from Randy Halberstadt, Dave Peck at Cornish and some select lessons from Jerome Grey,” Doria said.
Doria built on these firm roots by jamming with classmates several times each week. After graduation, he switched from piano to organ and began to adjust his technique for the electronic instrument.
“I learned Hammond organ from listening to Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff really. I bought my first Hammond and sat at the organ to dissect what I was hearing. But I would also ask questions from some of the best theater organists around such as Bob White, as well as Merv at Prosser Piano who showed me some tips on proper technique. But mainly it was up to me and listening to albums. Without those years at Cornish I wouldn't likely have been as successful with all things music on the Hammond.”
What were the albums that had the biggest impact on Doria? (see sidebar)
“I can name just about any Jimmy Smith album (or Jack McDuff, or Jimmy McGriff, or ‘Groove’ Holmes) as they are lessons - each one of them.
“Crazy Baby by Jimmy Smith holds lessons in swing, feel, and technique - from playing the ‘laid back’ feel of “Alfredo,” to ‘the squabble’ of “Mack the Knife” and “Making Whoopee,” to wild re-arrangement like “Night in Tunisia,” to how to approach a ballad like “What's New.” It should be a must-have in every organist’s collection.
“The writing/originals on Jack McDuff’s double album Live and Hot BBQ are outstanding. It’s a lesson in organ drawbar tones and sculpting as well as harmony and feel. The grit of the organ and Leslie speaker here are phenomenal.
“Jimmy McGriff and Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes on Giants of the Organ Come Together are ABSOLUTELY BURNING AND SWINGING. The band is phenomenal, the recording is genius. I'd kill to be in that audience.”
Doria also appreciates recordings closer to home. When Doria formed the trio McTuff, the band’s drummer, D’Vonne Lewis, suggested the band pay tribute Lewis’ organ-playing grandfather, Dave Lewis. Doria points to Lewis’ The Godfather of Northwest Rock as a textbook on boogaloo.
But imitating records and learning technique only takes an improvising musician so far.
“Where I REALLY started putting it all together was when guitarist Dan Heck started up a trio with me and drummer John Wicks. We did a weekly gig for several years at a place called the Art Bar downtown. Those two were burning as is and they were patient in allowing me to get up to speed on the Hammond (and always helped me load in the 400+lb beast each Wednesday).”
Doria and Wicks also performed as a duo called Dos(e), where Doria experimented with arrangements, explored the organ’s sonic possibilities, and expanded his technique.
Today with McTuff, Doria has branched out beyond his early mentors and influences. The current lineup, with guitarist Andy Coe and drummer Tarik Abouzied, is set to release the band’s fourth recording, The Root, which features original compositions and guest appearances by saxophonist Skerik.
Listening to Abouzied talk about working with Doria provides a glimpse into the high level of compatibility and artistry that keeps the band growing.
“It's been the most fulfilling and challenging musical experience of my life. Joe has developed enough facility on the organ to remove any obstacles between what comes to his mind and what comes out of his fingers, and the ideas that come to his mind are completely different every night. That sort of disposition means Andy and I need to have our ears wide open and be ready to go where Joe is taking us, and over the years the level of listening, communication, and spontaneity within the band has born some pretty incredible music. Playing with Joe requires me to bring all of my ability and focus to the table and leave any expectations or judgment at the door, and three years of that has pushed my musicianship far beyond where it was when I started.”
Joe Doria’s favorite organ albums
Jimmy Smith: Crazy Baby, Salle Playel - May 28, 1965 and The Sermon
Jack McDuff: Live and Hot BBQ
Jimmy McGriff: I've Got A Woman and Giants of the Organ Come Together (with Richard “Groove” Holmes)
Dr. Lonnie Smith: Too Damn Hot and Mellow Mood
Joey DeFrancesco: Relentless
Dave Lewis: The Godfather of Northwest Rock