A Conversation with Delvon Lamarr of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

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The New Cool: Delvon Lamarr and Amy Novo say farewell to Seattle | KNKX

If you’re into Soul, Funk, Jazz, Blues or any old school music on Stax, CTI, Volt and the like, then I’ve got something for you. The Delvon Lamarr Trio is the answer to your music prayers.

Hailing from the west coast, out of the great state of Washington, Delvin Lamarr crafts soulful instrumental music, which speaks to the listener in a way that very few instrumental acts can or do. Sound like something you’d dig? Check out the band’s website here, or their Bandcamp here.

So, today, I’ve got Delvon Lamarr with us for a chat. Delvon is truly down to earth and it was a treat to get to know him better. Read on to hear us touch on his origins in music, the beginnings of the trio, his love for video games, new music on the horizon and a whole lot more. Dig it.

Andrew:
Hey Delvon. Thanks for being here today. I appreciate it. How have you been? How have you been holding up during the pandemic?

Delvon:
Yo, how are you doing? You know, it’s been cool, just got a lot to do, a lot of creating of music during this downtime. We’re doing good. We’re hanging in there.

Andrew:
Nice. Which state are you guys in right now?

Delvon:
Now, we’re we’re in Washington. We’re in Spokane, Washington. It’s not too bad here because it’s kind of a little small town. It’s a small city, in eastern Washington. Kind of on the border of Idaho.

Andrew:
Nice. It could be worse. Could be could be like us here in New York.

Delvon:
Yeah. Man, you guys got it bad down there.

Andrew:
All right. So tell us a little about your back story. What got you into music? What was the gateway for you?

Delvon:
When I first started playing music, it was one of those things in junior high school, where I had to pick an elective class and either had to be like cooking, guitar or piano. So, I didn’t want to do any of them. So, I ended up choosing the guitar. So, when I was in the band room, I saw this horn on the floor and I told the teacher, I kind of lied and said, “I can play that,” he was like, “Good, I’ll put you in band.”

So, the next semester, he actually put me in band and I picked that horn up and I actually played it. I could play it. So that horn was a baritone horn…but I couldn’t read music, so I used to just copy the dude next me, whatever he played, obviously. So that was the start. Then, when I was in the band room, I used to put together instruments back there and just play them. So, that’s actually how I realized I can play any instrument, because every instrument I touched, I could actually play it. So it’s definitely a blessing.

Andrew:
With the organ trio, you’ve sort of melded Jazz, Soul and Funk. What was it about those genres that sort of drew you in?

Delvon:
When I started playing in Oregon, I was a straight ahead kind of Bebopper. I played a lot of Swing, and Jazz was pretty much all I played. I didn’t even know that Soul Jazz was a thing at that time. And then one day, I was driving around, I was working for the cable company, Comcast, back then it was called AT&T, but anyway, I was listening to the radio, I believe I was listening to a song by Soulive and I was listening to it, and I was like, “Is that an organ bass?” He was playing bass with the organ. I’d never heard anybody play like that. Like Funk baselines, on an organ. I was like, “Dude.”

So, I researched, it was Neil Evans who was the the organist in that band, and man, it was kind of a that first step into opening up the world of Soul Jazz. So, I started to research and came across cats like Dr. Lonnie Smith and man, it was a whole new world for me as Soul Jazz has definitely become one of my favorites. It’s a great genre and there is wealth of it out there.

Andrew:
Wow. So, with the organ trio, how did it come together? How did the members of the band all end up together? How did it start?

Delvon:
Well, actually, it was my wife, Amy Novo, who actually started this band. It was her idea. It was her concept. I never wanted to have a band, it wasn’t my thing. I watched bandleaders go through all this stuff and all the headaches and I said, “I don’t want nothing to do with that. I’ll just be a side dude and just be that guy,” but, she was watching me struggle like I used to, dragging around for a three hour drives to make like seventy five bucks at a gig. Meanwhile, it cost me 60 bucks to get there. I just wanted to play, so she got that and she she saw the potential, and she was just like, “Dude, get the guys together and I’ll take care of all the rest.” And that’s how she started.

So, when we started, she got us a weekly gig at a club called the Royal Room, which is where we we started off, but we didn’t have any music, or any material. I would just call the guys and we would just jam for like three hours, and a lot of music from that. Actually, all the original tunes from the Close But No Cigar album were just grooves that we used to groove to on that stage. We had them, so we were able to quickly turn them into songs, because we had a surprise studio offer. So, that was kind of how it started. It started cool.

Andrew:
So, we’ve got your newest record, I believe it’s called I Told You So, and it’s really good. So, how did it how did this one come together? What was the recording process like?

Delvon:
Well, it’s the first since our original drummer left the band. He left…this was back in 2018, and we cycled through a bunch of drummers, trying to find the right fit and to find a drummer.

Andrew:
It’s hard to find a drummer!

Delvon:
Yeah, it is. Because it’s not only finding somebody who fits the style, but they also have to have the right personality. We tour a lot, and so, these things are very important. You’ve got to be able to get along, and you learn that pretty quick when you get on the road. The last drummer we used when we went on tour, was the drummer from The Polyrhythmics, Grant Schroff, and we just decided, let’s do the album with him.

So, we decided to record. We had a bunch…well actually, we didn’t even have a bunch…we just had a couple of, like, groovy tunes. So, we just figured them out when we got there. And so, during sound checks, we worked them out, because we went on a 30 day European tour with Grant. So, with all of the tunes, we just came up with more grooves during sound checks, during that whole tour. So, pretty much most of the stuff on that album was actually written within the 30 days before. Most of it was actually completed, when we were actually in the studio, we just showed up, all were in one room and we had to put all those into songs, in real time.

Andrew:
Right. I guess you kind of you touched on the last record Close But No Cigar a bit earlier…they’re both great records, but that said, how do you feel you’ve progressed since the first record to this next one? Or is it more of a continuation?

Delvon:
Well, there is a progression, looking back on the Close But No Cigar album, when we recorded that album, we actually weren’t even thinking about recording. We just got a call from Jason Graves, our studio engineer, he’s a friend of mine, we’ve been friends for a long time, he just called and said, “Hey. I just want you to know, I’ve got some free time.” Does anybody just call around to find out if anybody want to record? And at the time, we literally had maybe two original tunes, everything else was covers, because we were just jamming. So, I said, we might as well just go ahead and do it, and we actually went in there, and we literally wrote most of the originals in the studio.

Andrew:
Wow
.

Delvon:
Yeah, and that was that. It was kind of reserved because we were unsure, because we were literally writing this stuff in between recording the next song. So, fast forward to I Told You So, and we kind of came out of our shell, we’re a little more confident going in, in terms of just going into a studio. I think with the I Told You So album, a lot more of our influences are in there. You know, like with “From The Streets” it has more of a Hip-Hop groove, kind of like an Ohio Players Hip-Hop groove, so, it’s just different that way.

Andrew:
So, it’s sort of like you guys are kind of unleashing yourselves. Maybe in a way, more confident and obviously a little more prepared. But, even if you guys didn’t have things pre-written the first time around, I mean, it came out great. A little improvisation never hurt anybody! So, going back a little bit, kind of digging into the roots of the trio, it seems like it’s rooted in a lot of 60s and 70s Soul, Jazz and Blues. Of course, the second album you kind of just talked about a little bit of Hip-Hop influences starting to creep in. With these old genres, there’s sort of this mystique around it, especially the old stuff, you know what I mean? But you guys have kind of really captured that which is really cool. What is it about the chemistry that you guys kind of have that allows that to happen?

Delvon:
Well, you know, I look at it like this, all three of us come from a different place. I know Grant’s on that album, and it applies to Grant, too. I’m more rooted in straight ahead Jazz, because that’s what I played, and that’s what I’ve kind of been doing, like most of my life. So, I have a lot of Jazz influence. Jimmy James is straight Motown, Stax, you know, stuff like that, and that’s his strong influence, and you can totally hear that in his playing. And, you know, he’s got Little Rock ‘N’ Roll in there as well. So, for that album, we had Grant and Grant is more kind of seventies to present style of drumming, like David Garibaldi and Adam Deitch and things like that. He has more of the- it’s old school, but still modern at the same time, very pocket oriented. So, I think the styles and also the music we grew up listening to is very similar. I grew up in Rhythm and Blues, and so did Jimmy. So, me and Jimmy’s musical repertoire is almost the same right now, and that really helps with the chemistry as well. And we’re just cool cats. (Laughs).

Andrew:
I can’t argue with that. (Laughs)

Delvon:
So, yeah, we just we just vibe and we click, and, even our current drummer, Dan Weiss, he’s kind of the same way. It’s like his style is more of the David Garibaldi style as well. So, you know, it’s really just you’ve got all three of these different styles kind of coming together, but in our own way. So, it’s a nice melting pot.

Andrew:
So, I kind of wanted to touch on a little more soul. There’s sort of this old school Soul revival thing happening right now, which is totally separate from the Neo-Soul stuff that’s sort of been existing for, I don’t know, twenty, twenty five years. So, you guys could definitely be considered kind of part of it. What are your thoughts on Soul and Funk being brought back up into the mainstream, in a way that it hasn’t been in a long time, other than the Neo-Soul type of stuff?

Delvon:
Yeah, you know, I’m really happy that that it’s coming back. It’s like one of those things I always thought, you know; soul music at a certain point didn’t really have a definition. It’s like anybody that’s playing something with a backbeat- it’s soul music. And it’s like, “Nah, man, that’s not Soul.” But but you’ve got to like all those cats on Colemine, Duran Jones and Indications, Kelly [Finnigan]. Of course, you’ve got the Daptone Kings and stuff like that. Like real, real Soul…it just kind of feels like it’s been lost for a long time.

Andrew:
You mentioned Colemine. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention your label. They’re pretty awesome. I’m sure you’ve seen your own record, but when you open it, it’s almost sort of like it’s like an amalgamation of all those old school labels like the Soul, the Jazz or the Fusion labels. I almost get a CTI vibe, with the gatefold and everything. So, how did you guys end up with Colemine? What’s it been like working with them?

Delvon:
That actually was Amy, my wife. Well, the first time I heard of Colemine Records was when I was invited to see Kelly Finnegan. It was a Monophonic’s show and I had never heard of Colemine at that time, but I knew one of the dudes in the opening band. So, he invited us out and said, “I think you’ll really like these guys.” So, we went and met Monophonic’s, and we ended up talking to Kelly and he was talking about Colemine and stuff like that. So, it was in my head. Later on, like months later, we ended up playing the show with some other guys who were on Colemine as well. So, we ended up talking to those guys about Colemine and stuff like that, and so, my wife ended up giving them some some CDs to hand to the label, because Close But No Cigar was a self release before Colemine picked it up. So, Amy ended up talking to Coleman over the phone, talking to Terry and she liked what she heard. We liked the music that they were putting out, and and I was like, “Man, these guys got some stuff happening.” So, it’s been a great relationship. I really like those guys, they’re just normal dudes, they’re not corporate, they’re not like suits and ties. It’s not like that. I mean, it’s just like two dudes. I like that.

Andrew:
You’re in good company over there. They have a great roster and they’re good people. I talked to Terry too. They’re good people. So, let’s see, outside of music, what are you most passionate about? What are the things that you love to do?

Delvon:
I’m a gamer. I’m a huge RPG fan, like I like all the Zelda’s and Final Fantasy, I like those games. I have all of them. I collect video game systems.

Andrew:
So, like the old school stuff too? Are you a Nintendo guy or a Sega guy?

Delvon:
I’m a Nintendo man! I’ve been really into flight simulators too. I’ve been kind of learning the aerodynamics and how to fly and stuff like that. Still, I’m scared to death of flying. That’s the crazy part…but it’s great behind the computer. I just love the mechanics of airplanes. I think they’re absolutely amazing, like how that even works and all that stuff. It’s a trip.

Andrew:
Oh yeah. When I was a kid, I remember there was a game for Sega Genesis called F-22, or something like that. I used to play that game all the time, so I get it. So, what else? Are you into vinyl, tapes, CDs? Or ar you just streaming everything now.

Delvon:
I do vinyl and stream. I don’t even have any CDs…I don’t think I have any CDs anymore. Yeah, we’re into vinyl and we stream.

Andrew:
Nice. As far as albums that mean a lot to you, what are a few off the top of your head that mean the most to you?

Delvon:
John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Huge, huge influence, because when I first started playing music after I began playing baritone horn, I kind of cycled through drums and trumpet for a long time. And when I was playing drums, man, I wanted to be Elvin Jones. That was my man, Elvin Jones. I don’t know…there’s something about his playing that it’s so powerful.

Andrew:
Incredible. So much raw power as a drummer.

Delvon:
And let me tell you, I actually saw him a couple of times, but the last time I saw Elvin Jones, they put me right in the front of the stage. It was like table and then drums [up against the table]. I sat right there, my ear, was like in the man’s bass drum, and the bass was loud.

Andrew:
Yeah, I have all his records. He’s a force. Elvin Jones, that classic quartet. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Delvon:
And you know, another album that I really like is Una Mas by Kenny Dorham. That’s an album…I don’t know what is, but the way Kenny plays the trumpet…man. It’s his melodies and his playing. I don’t know if there’s a word that can describe it, but he has such a melodic way of playing. And that’s one of the things that I strive for as an organist, is to be melodic, because I recognize we’re an instrumental band and sometimes it’s hard for people to relate to instrumental bands, so I try to play things very simply and understandable, but with the soul that was a huge influence to my playing.

Andrew:
I want go back and touch on something you just mentioned regarding instrumental music. Sometimes, it’s hard for people to relate to it. You know, I think especially when it comes to Soul, Jazz, Free Jazz, all that…John Coltrane, you know, there’s no lyrics, but there’s almost sort of like a lyricism in the music, and it’s always comes out in the titles, too, especially on A Love Supreme. He kind of sets the tone for what you’re about to listen to, which helps. So, for a new listener, how would you recommend that they sort of learn the language of instrumental music, so that it can touch them?

Delvon:
That’s a tough question. It’s one of those things where when I play, I always keep that in my mind, for example, when we played “Careless Whisper” on our album, when I play, I try to capture it the way George Michael sang it. I try to play it for what it is. And that’s one of the things that I’ve been told is when you hear it, you can actually hear the lyrics when you’re playing it. And we did that with the Sharon Jones track that we covered, and it was kind of the same thing. You got Bosco Mann and we were talking and he said, the way I played it, it was like I managed to capture all her nuances. And he said he’s never heard an organ player do that…capture a voice, and that means a lot because that’s exactly what I strive for. So, when people hear it, that’s what I hope…that they would actually catch on to, being able to hear it, not as an organ playing it, but actually hear the song. So, that’s the best answer I got for that.

Andrew:
And that’s good enough! So, you touched on touring and some pretty cool European tours and such. I know it’s a big part of what you guys do as musicians, right? It’s sort of the bread and butter for a lot of you guys. And unfortunately, with COVID, you guys can’t really hit the road right now. What do you miss most about being on the road and connecting with fans?

Delvon:
I know it, I miss the energy and just the overall, we spend so much time together, not only are we musicians in this band, but we’re we’re all really good friends. I kind of feel blessed that I have a job that I can hang out with my friends, do what I love to do and make a living doing it. And that’s not that’s not easy to say for a lot of people, but I’m fortunate to be in that position. I miss the fans. I miss being on the stage. It just…we do the live streams and…it’s weird. In fact, my wife has been getting on me about doing more live streams. I’ve never been a live stream guy. I don’t necessarily like it, because I don’t know…I’m just sitting in a room by myself, and it’s not the same thing, and even when we do the live streams, it’s just not the same without the people, you know? I really miss the people, the energy that you feed off of. So, that’s one of the biggest things I can’t wait to get back to, is just me playing for the people. I hope so soon. I hope…I hope that something happens, something lifts, so we can do what we do.

Andrew:
I hear that. Kind of expanding on this whole thing a bit, what’s the state of the music scene now? There’s so many indie venues closing down, which is sad and kind of scary. And these people are struggling. How do we do we recover from this? What’s it going to look like when this is all said and done?

Delvon:
The way I look at it is there there will always be venues. The question is, when this thing is all said and done and we can actually get back on the road, is there going to be way fewer venues at that time than there was? So, how is that going to affect things? I’m not too concerned about us. I think we have a pretty good, I don’t know what you call it, I guess a following for venues…we can get in venues now. But there’s a lot of great up-and-comers, who were just getting started when this thing happened and now it’s tense. So, what about those guys? That’s what I worry about, is the young bands that who were just starting to do their thing. We were fortunate enough to…well, before COVID hit, we were already building something up, so we’re not in as bad a position as some of these others, but that’s that’s my main worry. Once it’s all said and done, and then you start to open up, there’s going to be way less venues for people to play in, but in the long run, the venues have always been an ebb and flow. It’s like they pop up, they go away and then more pop up. And it’s always been like that, especially in Seattle. In Seattle, it’s always been up and down with venues. But COVID is worrisome for a lot of a lot of young bands.

Andrew:
I guess the best we can do is look on the bright side. You guys have a great record out and a lot of people are going to want to hear this thing when you hit the road again. Wrapping this thing up a little bit, you’ve had a lot of downtime, you haven’t been able to tour, and I know you guys just put this album out not that long ago, but are you working on something else? Are you you working on new music, or you kind of just letting this one lie for a while?

Delvon:
Oh, no, no. So, when we did that session that I told you about….so that was nine, ten tunes out of….I think we recorded like twenty seven tunes on that session. Plus, we ended up going back into the studio and recorded another 19 or 20, something like that. So we have a whole lot of music that’s going to be coming out. We’re just going to release them. We got enough music for the next few years.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio w/ Zu Zu Yaya in Louisville at Zanzabar

Andrew:
Nice. I’m ready for it.

Delvon:
And on top of that, we just got a studio a couple of weeks ago working on a new project. It’s going to be separate from Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, but it is going to be called DLO Three and Friends. And it basically, the three is going to be the foundation of the band, and we’re going to incorporate musicians and artists we’ve met on the road to join us on that album. So, Delvon Lamar Organ Trio is still going to be Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, but this is a side project. We just recorded the foundations. We’re working on with some other artists to join in with horn sections and vocals and things like that. And I’ll tell you right now, I just got the rough tracks back to the rhythm section- it’s tight. And I’m not saying that because it’s me, it’s just a great group of talented musicians.

Andrew:
Is that going to be through Colemine too, or somewhere else we don’t know about just yet?

Delvon:
That’s probably going to be released through Novo Productions, which is my wife’s company. But yeah, it sounded good. I’m excited about it and to see where it goes.

Andrew:
You think maybe later 2021, for that one?

Delvon:
Ahhhhh…maybe, probably not. That is definitely…probably going to be 2022, but gonna put it out there now.

Andrew:
Cool. I’m looking forward to that one. Last one. What what advice would you…and obviously, COVID has put a whole new perspective on this question, but what advice would you have for young artists?

Delvon:
Man, don’t give up. If you love what you do, you’ve got to fight for it always. And so just don’t give up, because things will turn around, hang in there and you can succeed.

Andrew:
All right, Delvon, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. It was really nice talking to you. Love the music.

Delvon:
All right! Well, thank you.

Delvon Lamarr: The Soul of Jazz to Come - Earshot Jazz

Interested in learning more about the work of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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