Douglas Kvandal says being a Hammond B-3 organ player means hauling 800 pounds of equipment and an hour of set up.
“There is a real organ renaissance happening throughout the country right now,” claims Hammond B-3 specialist Douglas Kvandal, who is gearing up to present the Jazz Organ Summit Concert on February 17 at Dizzy’s (1717 Morena Blvd.) featuring himself, Bobby Cressey, Ed Kornhauser and special L.A. guest Carey Frank, each of whom will lead their own group until the finale, where they will all play together.
Kvandal’s relationship to the bulky instrument goes way back.
“I started playing when I was 15, back in the 1st Baptist Church, which is how a lot of us got their start. From there I got a job at Sears, demonstrating their instruments, and then finally hooked up at the old Catamaran Hotel, in a trio backing the famed hypnotist Doctor Dean for years.”
Kvandal spent years on the road hauling his instrument all over the country, until he met his wife and decided to start a family. He started a successful software engineering company and stayed out of music until his kids were grown and out of the house.
According to Kvandal, it takes a special kind of spirit to lug around the huge, heavy instrument.
“It’s a giant pain-in-the-neck,” he laughs. “Because the instrument itself is enormous. You need a big van to move it. Mine is about 400 pounds, and then there is the Leslie speaker, which is another four hundred pounds. Despite that, with specialized dolly’s, I can actually move it by myself, but it takes about an hour to set up.”
So why do it?
“They make smaller compact electronic versions now, but it’s not the same thing. A real organ is like a grand piano, there is no substitute. You just don’t see a lot of people hauling grand pianos around.”
This whole organ concert has an additional, deeper meaning for Kvandal.
“I was just getting back to playing seriously again when I collapsed from a heart attack. I was in heart failure for 17 years until I got sick enough to go to the hospital to wait for a heart donor. You have to be sick enough to need a heart, yet well enough to survive the surgery, and lucky enough to have a donor.”
Six years ago, Kvandal received his heart.
“I’m not trying to be cute, but there is a connection here. A real Hammond B-3 is an organic instrument. I’m trying to create a community and raise awareness of the instrument and awareness of the gift of organ donorship. I want to make the most of this.”