John Patton (born July 12, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri, died March 19, 2002 in Montclair, New Jersey), sometimes nicknamed Big John Patton, was a soul jazz organ player. He was not nearly as well-known as other warriors in the organ jazz field of the 1960s, yet he could be counted upon for a reliable, even fervent collection of blues and bop-saturated licks and steady bass lines on the Hammond B-3. Mostly self-taught with some rudimentary instruction from his mother, Patton started playing piano in 1948, eventually landing a gig with the Lloyd Price touring band from 1954 to 1959, before moving to New York. Once there, he began to make the transition from piano to organ, learning a lot from future two recording mates, drummer Ben Dixon and guitarist Grant Green. He recorded with Lou Donaldson for Blue Note from 1962 to 1964 and, after impressing Blue Note founder Alfred Lion, made the first of a string of albums as a leader for the label in 1963. Interestingly, many of his albums, though scheduled for release, never saw the light of day until after Blue Note’s resurrection in 1985. When the Hammond B-3 and soul-jazz went out of fashion in the 1970s, Patton’s career went into eclipse as well, and he settled in East Orange, NJ. But, shortly after he started recording again in 1983, Patton was rediscovered by a younger generation, particularly the avant-garde figure John Zorn, who began using his sound out of its usual context on recordings like The Big Gundown and Spillane’s “Two-Lane Highway.”

His music evolved to incorporate elements of modal and free jazz, without ever losing the basic, earthy groove that he brought to it from the beginning.

He wrote some classics and will be remembered fondly both by musicians and fans. His stellar work included “Funky Mama” and Along Came John. During the late 60s John recorded some very adventurous music for the Blue Note label with artists such as Harold Alexander and George Coleman on lps such as Understanding and Accent on the Blues. Of particular note on the early sessions recorded for Blue Note both under his own name and also with George Braith, Don Wilkerson and Lou Donaldson was the superlative empathy he developed with guitarist Grant Green and drummer Ben Dixon - an organ trio whose work in the soul jazz genre remains unsurpassed to this day.

Since the resurgence in interest in music from this period Blue Note has unearthed many sessions that lay in the vaults. LPs such as Blue John which was actually penciled for release, but never was, and two fantastic (and forward looking) albums Boogaloo and Memphis New York Spirit saw the light of day and showed the world more of this exceptional artist’s work.

Patton continued to release new recordings into the ’90s, including two on the Japanese label DIW. He passed away due to complications from diabetes and kidney malfunction on March 19, 2002, at the age of 66. ~ Richard S. Ginell & Al Campbell, All Music Guide

Edited by mozrulez on 10 Nov 2007, 14:49

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