The Incredible Jazz Organist - Dan Fogel

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Dan Fogel is among the last jazz organ players to come of age in the 1950’s and 1960’s, a period when the instrument first became popular with jazz audiences.  As a child, the Margate musician received his first taste of the music from hanging out in several now-defunct jazz clubs on Kentucky Avenue in Atlantic City.  Each club featured a different organ legend in the house band.

“Grace’s Little Belmont had Wild Bill Davis and Bill Dogget playing there,” Fogel, 53, recalls during a recent lunch in Ocean City.  “Across the street from Grace’s Little Belmont at the Club Harlem was organist Charles Earland.  Right down the street at the Wonder Gardens were all the (other) big names: Groove Holmes, (“Brother”) Jack McDuff (and) Don Patterson.”

He continues: “I’m kind of working on a new sound right now, which I can’t speak about,” he says.  “I’m trying to assimilate all the sounds that I have (with) all the music that I’ve heard and to come up with something that’s never been heard before.  It’s where music is going to go very soon.

“Music is about to take a big change,” he says.  “A big change in the rhythms of the music.  We’re gonna have more rhythms and more varied rhythms.  It’s not gonna be as structured.  The music in  the next 10 years, you won’t recognize it.”

Fogel has a reputation in jazz circles among organ players.

Gene Ludwig worked at the Wonder gardens in the summer of 1964 and 1965, where Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Cannonball Adderley, King Curtis, Larry Young and McDuff used to hold court.  In his spare time, Ludwig would occasionally go over to Fogel’s house, where the youngster made a strong impression.

“He had a thirst for knowledge, and he was very, very gifted,” says Ludwig, who lives in Pittsburgh.  “He did show a lot of promise, then.  He had his own style, more or less.”

“He sounds a lot like Don Patterson, that kind of bag,” says organ player “Papa” John DeFrancesco, who recently at the Cape May Jazz Festival with his son Joey.  “He can play soulful (and) bluesy, “DeFrancesco says.  “He can hold that groove.  He’s been around for more than a minute.”

Fogel is not surprised by DeFrancesco’s comparison to Patterson.  “I used to have breakfast with Don every morning,” Fogel says.  “I was influenced by Don.  Actually meeting him and being able to spend time with him, I’m sure, had a lot to do with the great influence he had (on) me.”

Aside from Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, Fogel says, most of the organ greats that he grew up listening to have died.  But these icons made a lasting impression.

“We all knew each other,” Fogel says.  “We all hung out.  They were the monsters.  There’s some kind of a transference that takes place.  You just see the power that for instance Groove Holmes put into a tune like ‘Misty’ or any song he played.

“To see that, you know what your standard is.  You can’t (perform) below that.