Joe Doria Trio at La Copa Cafe

CC Image courtesy of ArtBrom on Flickr

I went and saw the Joe Doria Trio (Hammond organ, guitar, drums) play at La Copa Cafe in north Ballard. Unassuming from the outside, the cafe is a cozy little room with cool paintings hanging on the wall. The cookies are fantastic.

The trio was really cooking tonight. Joe, ever the virtuoso, flew over the keys, adjusted drawbars, and flipped switches like mad scientist in a lab, all while holding down a bass groove solidly in the pocket. Colin Higgins accompanied on the guitar beautifully with well designed complements to Joe’s fire. Guitar solos were clean and elegant. Ehssan Karimi played a minimal four-piece kit (bass, snare, hi-hat, ride cymbal), but you wouldn’t know it by the sound; his snare+ride solos spoke volumes.

I love the Hammond organ. I love its tone, its wide range of sounds, and its great versatility in roles it can fulfill. Joe was kind enough to let me sit in again for a tune (he’s let me sit in before at other shows). I don’t often get to play a real Hammond, but it’s a fantastic treat every time I do. I spend a good amount of time listening and reading up on how organs work and try to apply what I learn on my Nord Electro 3, but it’s never quite the same.

The cafe was decently full when I arrived, but as soon as the table right next to the organ cleared, I grabbed a seat to watch Joe’s hands (and feet!). From reading, I knew which sets of drawbars corresponded to each manual, which helped me understand what he was doing a little better than last time. Drawbar settings I noticed he liked to use included:

  • 88 0000 000: quiet and mellow, often for comping, but some melodic work as well
  • 88 8000 000: similar to previous, but a bit more punch
  • 00 0800 000: I only saw this a couple times, but it had a nice mellow tone, but not as deep as the other settings. It reminded me of the clarinet register on an accordion.

There were some playing techniques that Joe used tonight that stood out to me as things I want to work on:

  • Repeating a melodic figure in different octaves. I’m not entirely sure why I never do this, but it’s a useful device and I’m gonna try to work it into my playing.
  • Short, clipped and percussive “stabs” at chord clusters. These felt a lot like “drumming” in between melodic sections. They’d often precede a big gliss up to a sustained chord.
  • Switching drawbars settings mid solo, especially while sustaining a note or chord


The accordion is really similar to the organ in a lot of ways: unweighted keys, post-attack expression, the ability to change the tone of the instrument using drawbars or registers. I’m looking forward to trying these techniques out on accordion, as well as the next time I get a chance to play another organ.

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