Few keyboard instruments are as fascinating and awe‑inspiring as the Hammond B3. The combination of ingenious electro‑mechanics, valve amplification, innovative loudspeaker technology, and the inherent 'rightness' of the performance facilities have made this machine a classic and a legend in its own lifetime.
Mark Vail (an associate editor of the American Keyboard magazine) has collated an enormous wealth of information concerning the Hammond B3, the Leslie speaker and much more besides. If you find it hard not to drool at the sight of a rack of tonewheels, or you get your kicks watching Leslie horns speeding up and slowing down, this book is definitely for you. If you're slightly more in touch with the real world but still want to know how to play the beast, should you ever be confronted by one, this book is also for you. Finally, for those of you who are sad enough to be content with feeble MIDI synth imitations of the Hammond, but want to know how to play those classic Hammond riffs, there's something in here for you too!
Beauty in the B contains 240 pages, each crammed with information and divided into 10 chapters, starting with a history of the Hammond company and the electric clock that began it all, and describing the ancestors to the B3 and its many variants. There's also an excellent chapter on what to look for when buying a tonewheel organ, and how to keep it in good shape, and the story wouldn't be complete without a chapter on Don Leslie and his 'revolutionary' speaker designs.
Technicalities dispensed with, the book moves on to performance issues, with an army of keyboard legends revealing their favourite drawbar registrations and playing styles. The infamous '25 Hammond Licks You Must Know', by Dave Amels, is also reprinted, as a guide to the most characteristic playing techniques, registrations and Leslie effects.
The book rounds off with a comprehensive list of useful contacts, other books, web sites, and recommended listening. All in all, it's excellent, with something for almost every keyboard player. Hugh Robjohns
The Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B, by Mark Vail, is published by Miller Freeman Books, ISBN 0‑87930‑459‑6. Its UK price is around £26 (depending on prevailing exchange rate).