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Monday, January 20, 2014

Matthew Kaminski swings on 'the New Hammond'

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  • Emily Galloway
Fans of Atlanta Braves baseball are certainly familiar with the playful interludes of TED organist Matthew Kaminski, but many may not know that the Hammond aficionado has a whole separate career as a jazz musician. And it turns out this guy really has some chops!

While this may be the slowest part of Major League Baseball's offseason, Kaminski's year is really starting to pick up. Last weekend, he held a CD release party at Churchill Grounds with his trio, featuring himself on organ, Justin Varnes on drums, and Trey Wright on guitar. Fans of Athens jam band Squat might recognize Wright as their guitarist (however, he does not appear on the new CD). "Trey is definitely one of my favorites," Kaminski enthuses, although he admits he doesn't have a permanent trio. The vibe at Churchill Grounds last Saturday night was smooth, rich with hints of acid-jazz and classic late '50s/early '60s West Coast jazz. To see Kaminski work live is something to behold, constantly moving his feet and hands, covering the extent of his entire instrument. "It took a long time to work on playing baselines with my left hand and foot as well as playing chords and soloing in my right hand," he admits. "It was definitely a gradual process where the more experience I had playing live, the more comfortable I got at that coordination."

Kaminski's new recording Swingin' on the New Hammond (Chicken Coup Records) features everything from originals ("Allison's Blues") to jazz classics ("Until the Real Thing Comes Along") to some other pretty interesting covers ("Sail on Sailor" by the Beach Boys and "Turn to Stone" by E.L.O., both rendered in jazz fashion). Kaminski's style on the Hammond is slightly reminiscent of Jimmy Smith, who he cites as an influence, and "Wild" Bill Davis, but he really does have a thick, unique tone that he manages to make his own. Perhaps it comes from years of hearing himself fill the giant confines of Turner Field.

When asked about the process of deciding what to play for opposing teams' line-ups, Kaminski admits, "Most of my walk up songs for the opposing team come from fan suggestions on Twitter, Facebook, or even friends texting me! So my job is just picking out the ones that I like!"

No word yet on what Brian McCann's music will be when he comes back as a New York Yankee, but it has to be "Georgia on my Mind" doesn't it?

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