John Patton

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

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