On Thursday, the stone pillars in the basement of the old Ottawa jail will reflect a double groove.

Mike Essoudry ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Mike Essoudry ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Mike Essoudry and Don Cummings have formed a new group called Bumpin' Binary: a minimalist configuration of just drums and Hammond organ. But Essoudry says that will be quite enough to fill the space with “funky jazz music”.

“It's a great sound. You have everything there. You have the bass, you have the melody and stuff, and you have the drums. You have this big sound that's possible there, and pretty full for two people.”

But they're adding another voice as well: Petr Cancura will be guesting on tenor sax, just as he did at the duo's first show a month ago. That show attracted a packed house, with strong applause and even a few dancers.

The names spill out from Essoudry as he gets enthusiastic about the heritage of organ music in jazz: John Patton, Jimmy Smith, Lonnie Smith, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes.

“So there's a bunch of people like that, a whole set of organ players who played jazz. But it's more of a heavy sound of jazz. It's funkier; it swings as well.”

But most specifically, the duo of jazz organist Larry Young and drummer Elvin Jones, and Young's 1966 album, Unity, on which they do an organ/drums duo of “Monk's Dream”. When Essoudry heard that track, “at that point, I said, I know that this is possible, and it's a great sound.”

Essoudry and Cummings are long-time friends. They've played together in Cummings' Back-Talk Organ Trio for the last three years, and rehearsed together every Sunday. But with the trio's guitarist working on other projects, Essoudry thought it might be easier to play just as a duo.

Don Cummings ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Don Cummings ©Brett Delmage, 2010

He said they will be playing monthly at Mugshots, the low-ceilinged basement bar in the old Ottawa jail (now a youth hostel). They hope to eventually expand to weekly.

Both of them have also known Cancura (who was raised in Ottawa but now lives in Brooklyn) for many years).

“I love Petr's playing and Petr and I go way, way, way back. Petr and Don had played together a long time ago in a group that Don had put together. And we've always wanted to play with Petr in this setting, and it works out that Petr is in town for a week every month. So we coordinated it up so that he can be on the gig, last month, and this month coming up as well.”

Having a guest “adds that other voice, just adding something that's distinct between lead voices. Sometimes you can have too much of the same thing. And it also gives Don a break so Don just gets to be the rhythm-piano player behind a bass player rather than having to do all three [voices] all the time.”

Cancura will be a frequent guest, Essoudry said, but they hope to include other guests as well. “Or if not we can just do a duo show.”

He said he was pleased with the audience reaction to their first show: “I saw people dancing, and that's exactly the reaction I want. People said 'that's great, that's great, it's really groovin'.' ”

Which is what they want for that bar. “We play it fairly loud: it's more of a dance music that we're playing. It's not necessarily too too heady or anything like that. It's music to groove to, and socialize.”

    – Alayne McGregor

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