People Staff
June 17, 1991 12:00 PM

Barbara Dennerleln

Pianist Fats Waller, who loved the organ’s grandiose sound, introduced the instrument to jazz. He played pipe organs in churches and theaters in the ’20s and took an early Hammond electric on tour a decade later. But for Waller and others used to a piano’s percussive action, the organ has always had a serious drawback: Playing complex rhythms on it is a bit like trying to dance with an elephant.

Dennerlein, a 26-year-old German from Munich, is still determined to turn her Hammond B-3 into a rhythm machine. On Straight Ahead (Enja), her 1990 debut album, she played in a soulful groove reminiscent of the reigning master of jazz organ, Jimmy Smith. She ventures into more varied rhythmic terrain on Hot Stuff, with a mix of standards and originals that includes bop, blues, rock and funk.

Drummer Mark Mondesir, guitarist Mitch Watkins and tenor sax man Andy Sheppard offer sturdy support. And by connecting a MIDI synthesizer to her organ, Dennerlein makes the band sound even larger. She uses sampled acoustic-bass sounds for her pedals and plays remarkable walking rhythms with her feet. She at times plays three musical lines at once, using both her hands and feet. And she stacks sustaining notes upon each other in swelling harmonic waves. Other musicians get such effects by over-dubbing. Dennerlein won’t record anything she can’t reproduce live.

This is honest contemporary jazz and, yes, it is hot stuff. (Enja)

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