Barbara Dennerlein pulls out all stops for jazz

by Michael Barone, Minnesota Public Radio,
Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
August 12, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. — The organ is not unknown in the jazz world, but few jazz organists use their feet to play the bass line in addition to their hands on the keyboards. Barbara Dennerlein is one of a kind, in that she plays it all.

World-acclaimed German jazz organist Barbara Dennerlein began her career playing the classic Hammond B3 electronic.

Though she had always harbored a fascination and love for the pipe organ, as a youngster she was not allowed to touch one because she played jazz.

But some years ago, a German concert promoter invited her to bring her music to a pipe organ, and after several months of preparation she debuted to great acclaim.

Her Hammond continues as the vehicle for her many jazz club appearances. But she performs on pipe organs whenever possible, and two of her most recent recordings were made on large, modern mechanical action pipe organs in Memmingen and Berlin.

Dennerlein's is a class act, widely celebrated on the jazz scene, but -- as with many jazz performers -- she'd been "under the radar" for most classical musicians.

By chance, Michael Barone of American Public Media's Pipedreams radio program, "discovered" Dennerlein through her first pipe organ CD, and suggested her as a guest artist in the 2007 summer organ concert series at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia (America's largest new concert hall organ), and the Spreckels Pavillion at Balboa Park in San Diego (the world's largest "outdoor pipe organ").

Barone later introduced her to an audience of 2,000 professional church musicians during the American Guild of Organists National Convention in 2008.

Dennerlein will perform at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi (Friday evening, August 28) and the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis (Saturday evening, August 29).

She talks about her life in music with Michael Barone.

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