The Exciting New Organ Of Don Patterson
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Another monster Hammond B3 player from Columbus that went unmentioned in my Hank Marr post is Don Patterson. Like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, he moved away quite early in his career and died relatively young, but Patterson cannot be overlooked in a serious look at Columbus musicians. And yet, despite a stature as a musician right up there with Kirk's, he often is overlooked even in his hometown.
Don Patterson with Booker Ervin
The Exciting New Organ Of Don Patterson
Prestige - PR 7331
Born in Columbus in 1936, Patterson had heard Hank Marr as a youngster, but it wasn’t until he discovered Jimmy Smith that he fell in love with the organ. Once he started playing the clubs, he pretty quickly set “one of the Capital City’s most successful performance records” by playing the Club Regal on Long St for 24 consecutive weeks.
Patterson began his career as a teenager playing piano as a sideman with guys like sax player Carl Sally. Then he heard Jimmy Smith in 1956 and switched to organ. Although the liner notes to The Exciting New Organ indicate that Don didn’t play organ professionally until 1959, he was fronting his jazz combo and packing Columbus’ clubs nightly by late ‘57. By early ‘58, Patterson would play the downstairs musical bar at the Regal while his hero Jimmy Smith headlined upstairs in the Bum Bum Room.
In the summer of ‘58, the Patterson group was playing Pittsburgh’s Liberty Lounge with Walter Rankin on guitar. When he came back to Columbus in the fall, he was headlining Club Regal in the Bum Bum Room while “Ronnie” Kirk played downstairs. By ‘61, the Columbus jazz scene was starting to lose its luster and Patterson was still playing Club Regal, and at some point, Patterson took his talents to Chicago and would be based in the Gary Indiana area for many years. An Ohio State Lantern article from 1974 referred to him as “from Chicago,” making no mention of his Columbus roots.
Patterson joined a trio with drummer Billy James and led by Paul Weeden on guitar. They’d record with Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and Dexter Gordon before Patterson led the May 12, 1964 session with Booker Ervin on tenor sax that would make up his first album released as a leader, The Exciting New Organ Of Don Patterson (his January 1963 session would not be released until 1967 as Goin’ Down Home on the Cadet label).
Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, the same engineer who handled Chuz Alfred’s session nine years earlier, at his Englewood Cliffs New Jersey studio, the record starts with a Patterson original, S’bout Time, and it’s quickly apparent that Patterson has a distinct style from, say, Hank Marr. Much more driving and piano-like. It’s also clear that there’s quite a chemistry with drummer Billy James, whom he often played with as a duo. Guitarist Paul Weeden sat out this session, but Booker Ervin provides killer tenor work.
Side two has plenty of room for improvisation, beginning with an eleven-minute reading of When Johnny Comes Marching Home. Next is The Good Life, which had been a hit for Tony Bennett the year prior, a solo piece that ends the record with a soul-jazz feel. Overall, quite an impressive solo debut from one of the giants of the Hammond. He’d battle some demons, which reduced his output in the ‘70s and moved to Philadelphia before passing away in 1988 at 51. Booker Ervin passed in 1970 at just 39. Although his time gigging regularly in his hometown was relatively brief, Don Patterson remains a big part of the rich legacy of Hammond B3 organists to emerge from Columbus.
A1 S'Bout Time
B1 When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Recorded At – Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Design, Photography By [Photo] – Don Schlitten
Drums – Billy James
Liner Notes [July, 1964] – Robert Levin
Organ – Don Patterson
Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder
Supervised By – Ozzie Cadena
Tenor Saxophone – Booker Ervin (tracks: A1 to B1)