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… and all that jazz …

The appearance of renowned jazz musician Hank Marr at USF tonight will offer the chance to hear arguably one of the most famous instrument sounds in popular music being played by one of its greatest exponents.

The season finale of USF College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Monday Night Jazz season will feature Marr on the Hammond B-3 organ. Accompanied by the USF Jazz Ensemble I, the first half of the performance will be a tribute to jazz composer Oliver Nelson. In the second half of the performance, Marr will be joined by a USF faculty ensemble.

Chuck Owen, Jazz Ensemble I director, said the performance will offer a rare opportunity to hear mainstream jazz in Tampa.

“It’s something that (students) are not going to get to hear in too many other places. The Performing Arts Center, the subscription series things are noticeably lacking in programming, particularly in mainstream jazz,” said Owen. “Our programming fills a niche in the arts community in the west coast of Florida.”

Marr’s music, Owen said, harks back to one of the golden periods in jazz’s history.

“It’s vintage hard bop. It’s kind of tradition that maybe was established in the late ’50s, early ’60s on the Hammond B-3, playing very gospel, blues-tinged jazz,” Owen said. “It’s enjoyed a big resurgence here in the last ten years.”

The Hammond B-3 has, for the past 40 years, been one of the most recognizable sounds in rock and rhythm and blues music, prominent on classic recordings such as Booker T and the MG’s Green Onions and Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone. It was originally developed in the 1930s as an affordable substitute for large church organs, but when jazz and blues musicians heard the sound of the Hammond connected to a Leslie speaker, its use quickly became secular. Many 1960s pop groups, including the Beatles, were so enamored with the sound they experimented with playing their guitars through Leslie speakers.

One of Marr’s trademark techniques is the conversational effect he is able to obtain using both manuals (keyboards) of the Hammond.

“Each manual gives you a slightly different sound, and doing that he’s able to accentuate that conversational effect,” Owen said.Owen said the appearance of Marr dovetailed nicely with the tribute to Nelson.

“We decided we wanted to do a tribute to Oliver Nelson, in part because Oliver had written some pieces that featured the Hammond B-3,” Owen said. “His music has been overlooked in recent years probably because it just wasn’t commercially available. You just couldn’t find it to play it.”

Born in Columbus in 1927, Marr was a jazz pianist until he heard, first “Wild” Bill Davis and then Jimmy Smith, at which point he switched to playing the Hammond organ. He has recorded numerous albums including Live at the 502 Club (The Greasy Spoon), It’s ’bout time and Basie-cally-Speaking. Marr is an associate professor of music in jazz studies at Ohio State University and was honored by the city of Columbus with Marvelous Hank Marr Day in 1990.

Owen said lack of coverage of jazz in the mainstream media means that many of today’s jazz musicians are not household names, but he said Marr, and other jazz musicians that have come to USF, more than warrant attention.

“These people are renowned internationally for what they do,” Owen said. “If (people) have any curiosity about jazz as a music, or just expanding their musical horizons, or just to see something different, (the concert) is a great way to do that. That’s in keeping with what the university as a whole is about.”

Contact Chris O’Donnellat