The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio are a 21st century contemporary soul-jazz and funk outfit based in Seattle. Their sound is marked by kinetic, driving grooves, funky breaks, and spontaneous improvisation, whether they’re playing originals or covers — they are especially well- known for the latter. The trio features Delvon Lamarr on Hammond B-3, Jimmy James on guitar, and Dan Weiss on drums. Their debut album, Close But No Cigar, appeared in 2016 on a label started by Lamarr’s wife and manager Amy Novo, and reached the jazz charts. After signing with revered R&B label Colemine, the trio followed with Live at KEXP in 2018, recorded during a single session at the venerable, listener-supported Seattle radio station. After years of touring, playing festivals, and headlining club dates, they returned to the studio. I Told You So was issued in early 2021.
The group was formed in the spring of 2015 by Amy Novo, Lamarr’s wife and the trio’s manager. Lamarr had been a regular on the Seattle scene for two decades as a multi-instrumentalist: In addition to the B-3, he is a trained drummer and trumpeter, and also plays saxophone and trombone. He took up the B-3 full-time after playing drums with local jazz organ legend Joe Doria. While the bands he played in were staples in Seattle, Lamarr felt they weren’t really going anywhere — at least not where he wanted to go. Novo insisted that he start his own band with a goal of touring and recording. While that was appealing, he felt he couldn’t handle the hassle of being his own booking agent and manager. She countered by proposing that she would take over his career and its business administration; all he had to do was find the right musicians to create and play music with.
The trio began with another guitarist, but within a year they brought on Jimmy James, a fellow Seattle scene regular. Lamarr had heard him develop from a young age when James, barely 18, showed up at a club and asked to sit in. James and Polyrhythmics drummer Dave McGraw had co-founded a nine-piece soul band called the True-Loves before joining Lamarr. The collective chemistry was inherent from the outset. With Lamarr’s soulful organ style owing equally to Larry Young, Jimmy Smith, and the late Jack McDuff, his gritty sound is buoyed by James’ filthy, explosive, over-the-top Steve Cropper-esque vamping and Hendrix-ian leads, while McGraw’s break-heavy drumming registers across the soul-jazz and R&B spectrum. Though the trio’s sound falls under the jazz umbrella, their sound puts rhythm first, as R&B, rock, soul, blues, fusion, and funk all contribute to the meld through spiraling improvisation and syncopation. They began playing a year-long weekly residency at Seattle’s The Royal Room, woodshedding and developing original tunes. They played short regional tours across Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho.
Novo got the band a recording deal with famed independent soul and R&B label Colemine Records. Their label debut album, Close But No Cigar, was cut live in the studio as a way of capturing their club sound on tape — the only overdubs were a few tambourines. The set was issued in 2016. It peaked at number one on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and number three Jazz Albums, while registering the charts at streaming, too. The trio signed with Boston’s Kurland Agency and hit the road, headlining clubs and playing prestigious festivals across the U.S., including Funk ’n Waffles, The Detroit Jazz Festival, The Joshua Tree Music Festival, and The Monterey Jazz Festival. The trio followed with the Live at KEXP!, a set cut at the venerable Seattle public radio station. The album peaked at six on the Contemporary Jazz Albums list and at 10 on the Jazz albums chart. McGraw left the band due to other commitments and was replaced by drummer Doug Octa Port for the ensuing tour. DL03 followed with 20 months of touring across the continental U.S. and Canada.
DL03 completed their second studio outing in early 2020 with drummer Dan Weiss (of powerhouse soul and funk collective the Sextones from Reno, Nevada) who’d replaced Port. The production and distribution of the set was delayed. First single “Call Your Mom” was issued in the late fall, and it was followed in January 2021 with a cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” The trio’s sophomore Colemine long-player, I Told You So, appeared at the end of the month, and peaked at number three on the jazz charts. ~ Thom Jurek