To say John Patton was a born musician is an understatement. Robert Altman is currently making a film on Jazz, focusing on the city that is also the film's title, and John's birthplace, Kansas City, Missouri. John was born in 1935. His mother played piano in local churches and social groups, but he says he's mostly self-taught, picking up the instrument at the age of 12.
John had planned to attend Howard University, and was working in a service station and sitting in at clubs when he auditioned for Lloyd Price. John stayed with Lloyd for almost 6 years, becoming the musical director and de facto band manager. He wrote several songs for Lloyd, and recorded some 10 albums during that time, which also saw him touring the US and Australia. John says he'd fool around with any organ that would happen to be in a club, but he didn't switch until later.
In the summer of 1961, John moved to New York City because he wanted to play Jazz. He got a room at the Flanders Hotel on 47th Street which was a musician's hangout. There were often jam sessions in someone's room, and he got to know many musicians that way. Thanks to Luther Dixon who worked with Lloyd Price, John got a job at Sceptre Records capitalizing on his talents as a songwriter. Among other tunes, he wrote "Wedding Day" performed by The Shirelles.
During this time, John played around town at clubs like Brankers, Basie's, Minton's, The Barron, The Red Rooster, The 5 Spot, Shalimar, and at the New York World's Fair. He played with musicians like Calvin Newborn, Donald Byrd, Ben Dixon, Babs Gonzales, Harold Vick and Grant Green. Later on, he also became friends with Clifford Jarvis and sat in with the Sun Ra band several times.
He also met Herman Greene (of Lionel Hampton's band) while playing the strip in Asbury Park. It was Greene who, along with Ben Dixon, pursuaded John to switch to the organ. He got a chance to play exclusively the organ with Greene, and decided to go with it. Grant Green, who was working with Gloria Coleman at the time, told Lou about John and invited him over to Blue Note. That was the start of a 10 year stay with the label.
1963 was John's most prolific year, as he recorded 9 albums: 2 as a leader (although _Blue John_ was only released in 1986), 2 with Lou Donaldson, and 1 each with Grant Green, Johnny Griffin & Mathew Gee, Red Holloway, Harold Vick, and Don Wilkerson. In fact, John, Green and Ben Dixon formed Blue Note's strongest rhythm section in the Soul-Jazz vein, backing artists like Donaldson, Vick, Wilkerson, George Braith, as well as playing on John's and Green's own albums as leaders. John went on to record 10 more albums as a leader for Blue Note, including the classics _The Way I Feel_ with Fred Jackson and _Let 'Em Roll_ with Bobby Hutcherson both with Green and Dixon, and his most daring _Understanding_ with Harold Alexander and Hugh Walker.
Blue Note not only issued for the first time _Blue John_ in 1986, but in the last two years have issued 2 of John's shelved projects, _Boogaloo_ also with Alexander and George Edward Brown on drums, and more recently _Memphis to New York Spirit_ with Marvin Cabell and James Ulmer. Among the many musicians John has played with, his two most memorable associations were with Alexander, and with Pharoah Sanders during a tour of Austria with Betty Carter in the late 60's.
Unfortunately, the death of Alfred Lion and the drastic changes at Blue Note from its purchase by United Artists, along with the "death" of the B-3 organ and birth of cheap synthesizers, forced John out of the recording industry. Aside from 5 sessions as a sideman with Johnny Lytle, Jimmy Ponder and John Zorn, John only recorded one album as a leader during the 70's and 80's, _Soul Connection_, with Grachan Moncur III, Melvin Sparks, Grant Reed and Alvin Queen.
In the 90's however, with the resurrection of the Hammond B-3 organ, John's career is picking up again. On top of the 2 recently released Blue Note sessions from the 60's, he recorded two new albums. _Blue Planet Man_ is mostly new material played in a sextet with John Zorn, Bill Saxton, Pete Chavez, Ed Cherry, Eddie Gladden, with Lawrence Killian and Rorie Nichols adding some color with the congas and vocals on one track. This album, produced by John's wife Thelma, was recently issued domestically by Evidence.
DIW released _Minor Swing_, re-recordings of John's tunes from the 60's in a quartet setting with John Zorn, Ed Cherry and Kenny Wolleson. This album (produced in an elegant packaging like a miniature record with folding sleeve), while not yet available domestically, has gotten excellent reviews and is widely available as an import. The band opened up for Medeski Martin & Wood four nights in a row last November! DIW also recorded John doing new material with Dave Hubbard, Ed Cherry, Eddie Gladden and Lawrence Killian. This release is slated for this summer.
On a last note, while John's songwriting credits may come as a surprise some fans of his organ playing, it will probably surprise most people to know that he has also coached musicians, most recently and notably, Cassandra Wilson.
(H.Vick/G.Green) Along Came John 1963 Blue Note (G.Green/Ben Dixon) Blue John 1963 Blue Note (F.Jackson/G.Green) The Way I Feel 1964 Blue Note (B.Mitchell/G.Green) Oh Baby 1965 Blue Note (Green/B.Hutcherson) Let 'Em Roll 1965 Blue Note (G.Green/R.Landrum) Got a Good Thing Goin' 1966 Blue Note (Jimmy Ponder) That Certain Feeling 1968 Blue Note (Harold Alexander) Boogaloo 1968 Blue Note (Harold Alexander) Understanding 1968 Blue Note (M.Cabell/J.Ulmer) Accent on the Blues 1969 Blue Note (M.Cabell/J.Ulmer) Memphis To New York Spirit 1970 * Blue Note (G.Moncur/M.Sparks) Soul Connection 1983 Nilva (D.Murray/G.Freeman) Untitled (unissued) 1986 New World (John Zorn/L.Killian) Blue Planet Man 1993 King/Evidence (John Zorn/Ed Cherry) Minor Swing 1995 DIW (D.Hubbard/Ed Cherry) Untitled (upcoming) 1996 DIW * 3 tracks are from 1969 session w/ George Coleman Braith, George (G.Green/Ben Dixon) Laughing Soul 1966 Prestige Donaldson, Lou (G.Green/Ben Dixon) The Natural Soul 1962 Blue Note (G.Green/Ben Dixon) Good Gracious! 1963 Blue Note (T.Turrentine/Dixon) Signifyin' 1963 Argo (Ben Dixon) Possum Head 1964 Argo Green, Grant (Joe Henderson) Am I Blue? 1963 Blue Note (Ben Dixon) Iron City 1967 Muse Griffin, Johnny - Matthew Gee (Art Taylor) Soul Groove 1963 Atlantic Holloway, Red The Burner 1963 Prestige Jordan, Clifford (B.Cranshaw/B.Higgins) Soul Fountain 1970 Vortex Lytle, Johnny (George Duvivier) Everything Must Change 1977 Muse Oliphant, Grassella The Grass Is Greener 196? Atlantic Ponder, Jimmy "Fats" (Bill Saxton) Mean Streets - No Bridges 1987 Muse (Lawrence Killian) Jump 1989 Muse Vick, Harold (B.Mitchell/G.Green) Steppin' Out 1963 Blue Note Wilkerson, Don (Grant Green) Shoutin'! 1963 Blue Note Zorn, John (B.Frisell/B.Previte) The Big Gundown 1987 Nonesuch/Icon (A.Collins/W.Horvitz) Spillane 1987 Nonesuch/Elektra