From Seattle, Washington, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio is a soul-jazz and funk trio imbued with an unstoppable swing. With current members Delvon Lamarr on organ, Jimmy James on lead guitar, Daniel Weiss on drums and formed in 2015, the trio – sometimes referred to as DLO3 – has released three studio albums to date as well as two live albums and a selection of 7’’ singles – all on Ohio-based label Colemine Records.
Recorded to tape in June 2018 during a live session in the premises of Colemine Records in Loveland outside Cincinnati, Ohio, Live in Loveland! was released on 22 April 2022 last on a double pink vinyl LP cut at 45rpm as part of Record Store Day 2022.
The trio’s music originally came to the attention of a much larger audience following their appearance on a live session for the always excellent Seattle-based KEXP Radio and published on YouTube in July 2017. The hugely successful clip caught the attention of Colemine Records who ended up signing the band on their label. Subsequently released on vinyl on Record Store Day 2018, Live at KEXP! became the first full KEXP session ever pressed on vinyl.
Live performances with a warm analogue quality are the band’s modus operandi. Even for studio recordings, the trio tend to play their sessions straight through in one take, in the same room and without overdubbing mistakes or imperfections, the sole objective being to preserve the raw dynamics of the music as it happens.
With Delvon Lamarr on the Hammond B-3 organ (and Leslie speaker), the DLO3 sound evokes of course that of Jimmy Smith who popularised the instrument from the late 1950s onwards. At the same time, the much heavier groove heard on the I Told You So record echoes that of contemporary jazz trio Medeski Martin and Woods, also led by the organ (and various other keyboards) of John Medeski.
DLO3 is releasing original music, but a casual look through the track listing of the band’s early albums just highlights how much the trio’s sound is indebted to the soul jazz and funk music heard on late 1960s early 1970s Motown or Stax records and of course on the soundtracks of many Blaxploitation movies from that era – from Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By”, Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”, James Brown’s “Ain’t it Funky Now” to Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” which has more or less turned into DLO3’s signature tune. There are also tributes to major influences in some song titles such as Al Green in “Al Greenery”, Booker T. & the M.G.’s in “Little Booker T” or simply quoted such as Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s “Express Yourself” in “Loveland”.
A reprise of George Michael’s ballad “Careless Whisper” in 2021 is the only tune that doesn’t seem to match the band’s DNA. Yet, with Delvon Lamarr and Jimmy James often ad libbing on stage and quoting miscellaneous songs, “Careless Whisper” has become one of the trio’s most requested songs at concerts.
The setlist on Live in Loveland! is mainly derived from the 2018 Close But No Cigar record with much longer versions showcasing an irresistible swing and extended solos from both leads. The set also includes superb versions of “Move On Up” and “Tacoma Black Party” which only feature on their live recordings.
What sets DLO3 apart is the absence of a bass guitarist. Delvon Lamarr plays all the bass lines on the lower manual (or keyboard), adding to the purely rhythmic focus of the band. Even though Delvon Lamarr and Jimmy James trade solo parts on a constant basis, every performance is built around the dynamics of four rhythmic instruments – Jimmy James’ relentless chanking guitar chords, organ basslines (left hand), organ chords (right hand) and of course the drummer’s beat keeping.
This is one of the things I look first and foremost in drummers is “pocket” – I don’t care what you can do, as long as the pocket is there […] “Pocket” is the groove. You play that beat and you keep that beat going, that’s the pocket. Delvon Lamarr
To date, DLO3 have recorded with three different drummers. David Mc Graw on Close But No Cigar (self-released in 2016 and re-released on Colemine Records in 2018), Live at KEXP! (2018) and Live in Loveland! (2022); Grant Schroff on I Told You So (2021) and Daniel Weiss on Cold as Weiss (2022). Such a drastic change of personnel has the potential to alter radically the sound of any band, but this is not the case with DLO3. All drummers seem to abide by the same rules of “pocket drumming” – a strict adherence to an unwavering timing and a locked-in swagger often borrowing from R&B and Hip Hop which gives plenty of space for the soloists to express themselves.
A track like “From the Streets” on I Told You (2021) for instance epitomises this spirited dedication to a sustained but bouncing rhythm – an implacable bassline and drum beat, a basic melodic line on guitar but no organ lead or guitar soloing.
With so many contemporary jazz bands pursuing new avenues and experimenting with polyrhythms, time signatures, harmonics, patterns, repetition, ensemble playing etc. DLO3 seem to revert back to basics in their effort to perfect an elusive mid-tempo groove, as if completing some unfinished business from the mid-1970s.
Often introduced as a band reviving “the lost art of feel good music”, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio’s infectious lilt is casting a euphoric spell and may well prove to exert a beneficial therapeutic influence on repeated listening.