You can count the number of internationally successful female B3 organ players on one hand. New York-based New Zealander Andrienne Fenemor is one of them.
She’s currently touring the country promoting her new self-produced instrumental album Mo’ Puddin’ featuring both covers, and originals including the title track. She spoke to Upbeat’s Eva Radich about her travels, choosing her instrument and how she got into the “scene” in NYC.
The B3 organ wasn’t the composer and singer’s first choice. She spent a small fortune importing a Hammond C3 organ from Australia to New Zealand, only to discover it wouldn’t fit through the door of her house. Then she decided to go for the smaller B3, importing it from Canada.
Fenemor got inspiration from listening to records of jazz legends Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery. She transcribed the music and over the course of many years taught herself how to play and then to improvise.
Fenemor’s playing style is also rare among B3 players. While transcribing, she focused on the bass line, and favours the left hand bass. The distinct style incorporates both the bass line and chords.
“People play the B3 in rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Doors. But they only play chords,” she says. “You have two roles when you play the B3 organ in jazz, by playing both the bass and the chords”.
She had to work her way up the ranks when she moved to New York in 2008, but it wasn’t long until she found her scene.
“The good thing about music is if you’ve studied in the style you play then you fit straight in with a certain type of musician,” she says. “I like to play with swing musicians. I find that connection happens naturally. And if you do a good job they will recommend you to others.”
She lives in Harlem, a vibrant community in Upper Manhattan, and enjoys exploring the clubs off the tourist beaten track. “There are plenty of gigs to go to. The big jazz clubs can be expensive to get into. It takes a little while, but you can figure out when the same musicians are playing at clubs with little or no cover charge during the week,” she says.
Adrienne Fenemor’s Mo’ Puddin’ tour features seven dates across the country, opening in Christchurch on August 25, and finishing in Auckland later in the month.