Wade Mikkola

Wade Mikkola


The sound of the Hammond B-3 organ, and more specifically the way that sound was sculpted into bluesy expressiveness by jazz artists, had a strong impact on the rock music that took the world by storm in the 1960s. A Hammond organ was present on stage at Woodstock, and saw use by groups ranging from the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, to Ten Years After, Santana and Sly and the Family Stone. Rock recordings by Booker T and the MGs, the Young Rascals, the Zombies, Blood Sweat and Tears, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and the Allman Brothers to name just a few, testify to the influence the jazz B-3 organ had on the musical stylings of classic rock. And that influence has permeated into the pop music of today in groups almost too numerous to mention.

The sound of the organ in jazz goes back to the 1930s and men like Milt Buckner and Fats Waller, who left a recorded legacy that was compact and yet influential. In the early 1950s, Count Basie added to those rare archives of recorded organ music, and artists like Jackie Davis and Wild Bill Davis further expanded the vocabulary of the jazz organ. But it wasn’t until the arrival of Jimmy Smith on the scene in the latter half of the 1950s that the Hammond B-3 took its rightful place as a unique and powerful voice on the jazz scene. Following Smith’s emphatic positioning of the organ as a legitimate solo voice, it was taken up by a bevy of important artists, ranging from Ray Charles and Jack McDuff to Shirley Scott and Jimmy McGriff.

In the new millennium, a group of jazz organists is extending the vocabulary of their predecessors. Notable among them are artists such as Joey DeFrancesco, John Medeski, Tony Monaco, and the organist on the present recording, George Kontrafouris.

Bassist Atro “Wade” Mikkola, the leader of Impromptu Session, has long been a fan of the now classic organ-quartet sessions of the 1960s. Led by organist Shirley Scott among others, these recordings often included a bass player and a horn soloist. The distinctive sound resulting from the combination of gut-stringed bass and Hammond organ was the inspiration for the present recording. Mikkola’s career has spanned two continents, America and Europe, and seen him in the musical company of such jazz luminaries as Max Roach, Dr. Billy Taylor, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef. He has also lent his musicianship and propulsive swing to sessions featuring such “young lions” of jazz as Eric Alexander, Mandy Gaines and Nnenna Freelon.

”The Impromptu Session” came to fruition when the opportunity arose to reunite Mikkola with his old friend and musical collaborator, American drumming sensation Joe Farnsworth, Joe was on a European tour with sax legend Pharoah Sanders’’ quartet, and was scheduled to play in Finland at the “April Jazz” Festival. As luck would have it, Joe was able and willing to spend the afternoon before the concert in the studio, and lent his prodigious talents to the “Impromptu” proceedings.
To fulfill the horn duties on the date, a first call was made to tenor sax man Jussi Kannaste, one of the most capable and talented voices today on the modern jazz scene in Finland (or anywhere else for that matter!). Kannaste readily agreed to grace this recording with his gorgeous tone and musical sophistication.

When his attention turned to filling the all-important organ chair, Mikkola had the great fortune to enlist another exceptional talent from abroad, Greek pianist/organist Giorgos “George” Kontrafouris. George also had collaborated previously on musical projects with Wade during lengthy stays in Finland.