Trudy Pitts, a Hammond B3 organist with a swirling, stinging style rich with technique and whose attack on the instrument was as aggressive as many of her male counterparts, died December 19. She was 78.
A late jazz-soul bloomer, Pitts was signed by Prestige in 1967 just as jazz was losing young listeners to rock and soul. Unlike many organists of the period who had learned to play the Hammond B3 in church and on the road, Pitts studied music at the Philadelphia Musical Academy, Temple University and Juilliard. Pitts' move to the organ was encouraged by her husband, William "Mr. C" Carney, who had played drums with organist Shirley Scott and later would perform with Pitts.
Pitts recorded four albums as a leader for Prestige and a handful of others as a sidewoman with Pat Martino, Willis Jackson and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. She also recorded more recently on piano. Pitts performed in 2006 at the 11th Annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in Philadelphia on the Kimmel Center's 7,000 pipe organ. She performed at the Kennedy Center again in 2008.
It should also be noted that Pitts was a formidable vocalist with a deep, earthy sound reminiscent of Sarah Vaughan's in the mid-'60s.
JazzWax tracks: Two of Trudy Pitts' finest recordings are Introducing the Fabulous Trudy Pitts (1967) and Pat Martino's El Hombre (1967). You'll find Introducing as well as tracks from Pitts' These Blues of Mine on a compilation: Trudy Pitts and Pat Martino: Legends of Acid Jazz here. Pat Martino's El Hombre has been remastered and is available at iTunes or here.
JazzWax clip: Not familiar with Trudy Pitts? Dig Steppin' in Minor from Introducing...
Not convinced? Here's One for Rose from Pat Martino's El Hombre with Danny Turner on flute...