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. The chart-topping I Told You So was issued in early 2021. The band wasted no time and, after working on a slew of new material on the bandstand over the course of ten months, they returned to the studio and released Cold as Weiss in February 2022.
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 the goal of touring and recording. While that was appealing, Lamarr felt he couldn’t handle the hassle of being his own booking agent and manager. Novo 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, while making 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 on 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!, which peaked at six on the Contemporary Jazz Albums list and at ten 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 spent the next 20 months touring the continental U.S. and Canada. Sextones’ drummer Dan Weiss from Las Vegas joined them on the last leg.
DL03 re-entered the studio immediately upon return with the Polyrhythmics’ Grant Schroff in the drum chair. They completed a second studio outing in early 2020. Though the recording, mixing, and mastering of I Told You So were completed, production and distribution were delayed due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. First single “Call Your Mom” was issued in the late fall, and followed in January 2021 with the band’s singular cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” I Told You So appeared from Colemine at the end of the month. It drew rave reviews in the U.S. and Europe; it debuted at number one on the contemporary jazz charts and peaked inside the Top Five on the jazz album charts, earning airplay as far away as Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
They issued the studio outtake “Jimmy’s Groove” with drummer Dan Weiss from Reno, NV as a non-LP single in April; it was followed a week later by “Cold as Weiss” a bluesy instrumental single-only track celebrating the kitman’s formal membership in the trio. Aware they couldn’t mount an international tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group worked out new material on local bandstands and in the studio. That fall, they commenced recording their third studio long-player. In January, they issued “Pull Your Pants Up” as a digital single followed by “Don’t Worry ’Bout What I Do.” In February 2022, DLO3 released this single “Get Da Steppin’” followed by the nine-track studio album Cold as Weiss. ~ Thom Jurek