Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Black History Month-John Patton

I'm taking off Thursday, so I'm posting Thursday's post on 'Big' John Patton this evening. I'll be back on Friday with a discussion on the late jazz organist Larry Young, continuing this celebration of Black History Month with this focus on Jazz Organ and its Musicians. If you're just joining us, feel free to review the previous installments of Black History Month in this blog which started off with a short intro to gospel music, followed by the development of the Hammond Organ and the Leslie speaker and their involvement in jazz, and the influence of jazz organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Jack McDuff.


Austin, TX jazz organist Mike Flanigin is currently playing some funky organ with Barfield, a local Austin band that is getting some play around town as well as Houston and San Antonio.

Flanigin is well established in town and everytime the legends or any other jazz organist comes to town they turn to him, as he has a nice 60s B3 organ and Leslie. He's rubbed elbows with all the people we've talked about so far and all of them have played his Hammond.

Mike also leads his own jazz trio, and is a great example of the continuing story of the jazz organ, following right in line with the masters.

A few years ago, Michael was mourning having to leave Austin to move up East with his wife for a job opportunity. He didn't realize what was in store for him when he got there.

'Big' John Patton, July 12, 1935-March 19, 2002, was born in Kansas City. His mother started him on piano, but he was largely self-taught. He learned on the fly, and mentored under saxophonist Ike Quebec, who also recorded with Jimmy Smith on Blue Note.

Patton's first record for Blue Note was 'Along Came John'. It's a bluesy record that really shows the Smith roots, but also, according to Flanigin's review at Blue Note's website for this record also shows Patton's R&B influence. Grant Green was the guitarist for this and many other Patton sessions, he was the tour de force of the times.

Rather than quote from Flanigin's review, just follow this link and it will take you right to it if you want to know more.

As time went on, Patton further developed that R and B philosophy into his music, fusing it with the jazz style then popular. It's very danceable music that sort of tows the line between the seriousness of Smith's jazz style and the groovy style of McGriff.

The tunes that best demonstrate this are my favorite Patton tunes, which are either tunes he wrote himself or are tunes associated with him. These include- 'Milk N Honey', 'Alfie's Theme', and 'Let 'Em Roll'.

You can listen to both recordings of my band Neo Trio playing 'Milk N Honey' and 'Alfie's Theme' on our website(

'Alfie's Theme' features the very talented Paul Klemperer on sax.

When Flanigin moved East with his wife, he unknowingly moved right down the street from Patton and both Flanigin and his wife struck up a good friendship with both Patton and his wife. The time was well spent, as Flanigin studied with Patton extensively during his time there.

Flanigin announced his returned to Austin bringing Patton. They both played an incredible two night show at The Continental Club, which floored everyone in attendance.

By the way, Patton wasn't 'big'. It was just that during the 60s there was a song called 'Big Bad John', and he ran with it.

More on Patton:


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