Here's Why This Kansas City Jazz Organist Has No Trouble Jumping From The Club To Church

Dec 9, 2016

The Hammond B-3 organ is one of the most recognizable sounds in American music. Kansas City musician Chris Hazelton plays that instrument on his new record, Soul Jazz Fridays, recorded live with his band Boogaloo 7, at the Green Lady Lounge.

Hazelton spoke with the Fish Fry about the history of soul jazz music in Kansas City.

"It was where jazz musicians intersected with the soul and funk genres of the mid-'60s, early '70s," Hazelton said. "You had guys that could really cross genres if need be. They were employed in a lot of clubs where dancing was a priority and so you had to play something that would move the feet."

CHUCK HADDIX: "You know, there's also a long tradition of jazz organ in Kansas City. Is there a particularly distinctive sound of 'Kansas City organ,' shall we say?"

HAZELTON: "I would like to think that it swings a little harder; it grooves a little bit heavier. I've found that guys from other parts of the country if you will seem to play it with a little more finesse and a little less grit."

HADDIX: "When it comes to Hammond B-3, it's a common instrument not only to jazz but also to church. There's two streams of American music, and you've got a foot in one stream at The Green Lady Lounge and also another stream in your church."

HAZELTON: "Centennial United Methodist at 19th & and Woodland."

HADDIX: "You're the music director there. How do you approach the two streams of American music differently?"

HAZELTON: "I think it's a lot less of a performance at church. It truly is a ministry, trying to reach people. Although, I do say that the two sides are not exclusive, because often times I get people after church saying, 'I almost felt like I was in the club.'"

HADDIX: "Well there's one common denominator and that's soul. And that's always at the heart of Chris Hazelton's music."

This interview took place on the November 19, 2016 edition of KCUR's Fish Fry. You can listen to the entire interview and hear all the music from that night, at the Fish Fry Archives.

KCUR contributor Matt Hodapp is the producer of Statehouse Blend Kansas and Statehouse Blend Missouri. Follow him on Twitter @MattwHodapp.