It was with great sadness I learned of Hammond B3 Organist Melvin Rhyne’s passing yesterday. I never met Melvin and regrettably I never had him at The Cellar. He did however hold a very special place in my heart. He was really the first ‘jazz’ organist that I really got into and is really the cat that fostered my love of the organ. When I was doing my radio show in the late mid nineties I was a huge fan of the Criss Cross Jazz Label, which was the label that pretty much exclusively recorded Melvin during that time. His records with Peter Bernstein and Kenny Washington were and still remain some of my favorite recordings. There was nothing particularily special about them, they were just hard swinging records. What else is there really? He ventured out of the trio format from time to time and did a great record with a young Joshua Redmond called Boss Organ, a quintet record called Stick To The Kick with Eric Alexander and Ryan Kisor but it was the trio records that really knocked me out! Mel’s Spell is awesome!
When I was doing my radio show I had the opportunity to interview Melvin. It was a memorable interview for many reasons but not for the ones you may think. Don’t get me wrong he was a great interview subject. When I did my interviews at the station, they were live so in addition to having to ask the questions, cue up the music, mind the levels etc. there wasn’t a lot of time to really listen to the answers 🙂 You have to hear it to get the full hilarity of the story but I was asking him about his foot pedal work. Long story short he was telling me that he actually didn’t play foot pedals and that the majority of his bass lines were done by the left hand. I didn’t hear that because I was fiddling with the CD player cueing up the next tune. I kept hammering him with the foot pedal things. Listening back I sounded like such an absolute fool. I will try to dig out the audio and post it because it is really funny!
I did chat with Bernstein, Kenny and Melvin about trying to get the trio out here but it just never came to fruition which is very unfortunate!
Melvin Rhyne was an unsung hero of the B3 Organ and I for one will not ever forget him. RIP Melvin!