There is a new monthly concert series in Budapest called Budapest Hammond Klub. With a different lineup each time, these concerts will feature the Hammond organ, one of the most fascinating musical instruments. The next concert will be on Saturday, October 18 at 9:00 pm at Jedermann Café where you can listen to Mátyás Premecz – Hammond organ, Márk Badics – drums, and Zsolt Csókás – guitar. I asked Mátyás Premecz, who is also the founder of the concert series to tell us a little bit about his background and to fill us in with the details about the Budapest Hammond Klub.
When did you start playing music?
I started playing the piano when I was six. Of course in the beginning it was my parents who wanted me to play but then after about four or five years, I also started taking it pretty seriously.
What kind of music did you play back then?
First I played only classical music. Then when I was around 18, I started listening to jazz. For me, the amount of time that I had to spend practicing one piece always seemed awfully a lot. Then I realized that through improvisation, I have a lot of options and I can actually make music in less time. So I also started taking jazz piano classes and later on, I graduated from the Liszt Academy of Music where I majored in jazz piano.
Photo: Zoltán Perényi / Budapest Local
Could you name some of the most defining moments in your music career?
At the end of my studies at the Liszt Academy we started Eklektric with Lőrinc Barabás, which became a huge success. Then another important moment was in 2007 when Jackie Orszáczky had his last concert on the A38 Ship. At that time, he was already living in Australia and since he had only brought some of his band members, he needed someone to play the keyboard. It was really a great experience for me to play with him.
When did you first encounter the Hammond organ?
When I was still in high school I was listening to all sorts of music and I became more and more interested in the Hammond organ. Later on, I bought my first Hammond organ and I taught myself how to play.
Photo: Zoltán Perényi / Budapest Local
How does the Hammond organ work?
It was invented by Laurens Hammond in the 1930s, who originally had a clock company and, interestingly enough, he had no background in music whatsoever. He developed a so-called synchronous motor in which the engine could spin an exact number of time in every minute. Then he was suggested that he would build a musical instrument based on this machine, which would never have to be tuned due to its mechanics. So in the Hammond organ, the tone generators are spinning continuously and as soon as you press a key or a pedal, a signal is created and then picked up by a preamplifier and then by the external speakers. There are two manuals but unlike on a piano, you cannot alter the volume. Also, there are the so-called drawbars that allow you to adjust the harmonics.
How did you come up with the idea of founding the Budapest Hammond Klub?
I’ve actually had the idea for quite some time because I’ve always thought that it would be great to play more often but also wanted to create a regular concert event where I’m not the only one playing the Hammond organ. But until now there were simply not enough people who could also perform. Now there are about 4-6 people. Of course rock musicians are not included in this list; in fact Hungarian rock bands regularly used the Hammond organ in their songs already in the 60s and 70s. However, since we mainly focus on jazz music, our list of potential Hammond organ players is really short.
Why do you think now there are more jazz musicians who play the Hammond organ than a couple of years ago?
It’s not an easy question. There was definitely a golden age of the Hammond organ, which basically ended when the first synthesizers became popular. It was Joey DeFrancesco with his CDs in the late 1990’s who sort of reintroduced the Hammond organ. So a lot of American Hammond organ players rediscovered this instrument because of DeFrancesco and I think the same happened in the Hungarian music scene, too. Actually my first contact with the Hammond organ was also because of DeFrancesco: he had a concert in Budapest and the very first time I played the Hammond organ, was after this concert. The instrument was not DeFrancesco’s but it belonged to a now friend of mine. When the concert was over, he let me try the instrument and then I bought my first Hammond organ within a week.
The first concert at the Budapest Jazz Club was really great with Joe Fitz – clarinet, István Gyárfás – guitar, Márk Badics – drums, and you playing the Hammond organ. There was also a warm up band called Organism. Can you tell a little bit about the lineup of the next concerts?
We’re still in the process of finalizing the lineups for the next concerts. In December, the theme of the concert will be gospel music and I also want to dedicate one of the concerts to the memory of Alan Hawkshaw. Then I’m planning to put together a concert of piano and Hammond organ as well as to invite Hammond organ players from abroad.
The next concert will be on Saturday, October 18 at Jedermann Café. Does it mean that you’ll have each concert at a different venue?
Yes and no: the Budapest Jazz Club is our “home” venue, so every second concert will be held there.