Preeminent Organist, Pat Bianchi, is arguably the most versatile B3 player on the jazz scene today. He actively plays and tours in contexts spanning from traditional organ trios, to progressive ensembles to smooth jazz and fusion groups. Currently, Bianchi is an active member of the Pat Martino Trio, the Tim Warfield Quartet, Chuck Loeb’s Plain and Simple Band (Guitarist with Fourplay) and frequently plays with Lou Donaldson. Regarding this Pat says, “Working with such a variety of bands has been such an education for me. I’ve learned to switch gears on a nightly basis and have worked hard to develop the right sound and feel for every situation that I play. Connecting with and supporting the leader, while maintaining my sound, is the most important thing to me.”
Bianchi is a dominant force on the Hammond Organ and his current trio includes Byron Landham (drums) and Craig Ebner (guitar), both of Philadelphia. “This band is incredible. I know that once I step on the bandstand with them, I’m in for an amazing musical experience. It’s always rhythmically explosive and full of harmonic twists and turns. We never know where a tune will go yet it is always swingin. Byron’s playing speaks for itself. He is one of the finest drummers I have ever worked with and I have been very fortunate to have learned so much from him along the way. Craig is an exceptional guitar player, and not only is he an inventive soloist but also an incredible accompanist, which in the organ trio format is no small task.” - Pat. He is preparing to record this trio with a planned release in early 2013.
Unassuming, Bianchi hales from Rochester, NY. He comes from a musical family and his grandfathers (Pat Bianchi – Saxophone and Richard Zona – Trumpet) along with his father (Nick Bianchi – Drums) provided support and guidance in his musical development. Bianchi began playing organ at the age of 7 and was playing some of his first professional gigs by the age of 11, eventually performing with dance bands around Rochester (ironically fulfilling the role of the bass with his left hand). This was a skill that would serve him well later in his musical life.
Recognizing Pat’s early affinity for music, his parents enrolled him in classical piano study and he later joined Eastman’s preparatory program on piano in his early teens. His interest and ability grew through high school and during this time Bianchi discovered a recording that would be one of his biggest early influences. That recording was Joey DeFrancesco’s Live at the Fivespot. Very soon after that, he got his first Hammond, an M100. Bianchi recalls, “A friend of mine knew someone who was going to put this organ out on the curb, so I raced over to pick it up before it went out with the trash. That M100 needed a lot of work, but once I got it running again I would play it non-stop. Since it is not possible to play left hand bass on a spinet organ, I worked diligently to develop the skill of playing entirely “foot bass” while comping with my left hand and soloing with the right.” Playing only pedals in Jazz Organ was not very common as Bianchi would soon learn.
Bianchi attended Berklee College of Music and graduated in 1998 with a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Piano Performance. While a student at Berklee, he discovered an online forum that was dedicated to the Hammond organ. Pat was interested in both the technical aspects of the instrument as well as playing it and soon became a frequent contributor to the forum. A discussion arose regarding Brother Jack McDuff and how he approached his bass lines, specifically the technique of playing left hand bass and tapping the pedals for the accent. Having spent a great deal of time practicing his “pedal bass” chops and being very confident in his abilities, Bianchi immediately joined the discussion and said “real organ players play pedals and playing left hand bass is cheating”. Soon after posting his thoughts, a reply to Pat’s comments appeared on the forum. This individual more or less suggested that Bianchi should re-think his approach. The reply was signed by “The Authority”. Being somewhat stubborn, Bianchi stuck to his guns and continued to argue publicly on this forum with “The Authority”. Pat had no idea who this individual was, but thought he had won the argument. About a week later, good friend and Hammond technician Sal Azzarelli called to let him know that for the past six days, he (Bianchi) had been arguing with none other than his hero, Joey DeFrancesco. Pat was in shock and immediately reached out to DeFrancesco to apologize, who responded with nothing but a phone number. Pat was both excited and nervous at the same time. After pacing in his dorm room for a while, he decided to pick up the phone and call the number. Joey immediately answered the phone and jokingly asked Bianchi, “How is that left foot doing?” This was a start of a close friendship and also set the stage for DeFrancesco to mentor the young organist. His studies at Berklee proved to be very important and though a still a piano major at Berklee, Bianchi new in time he would make the switch to being a full time organist.
Shortly after graduating, Bianchi secured the position as the house pianist at the famous El Chapultepec club in Denver. The Pec (as it is known to locals) often brought in guest artists giving Pat a chance to play with such greats as Red Holloway, Dakota Staton, Carl Fontana, Javon Jackson, Mark Elf, Bud Shank, Brad Leali, Pete Christlieb, and Conte Candoli. After being at the Pec for 6 nights a week for almost 3 years, Bianchi decided it was time to move on and focus solely on organ and has never looked back.
While still in his mid 20’s Pat became an important fixture on the Denver Jazz Scene. He made his national debut as an Organist, appearing on two recordings as a member the Denver based organ trio, 3osity. The national release of Art of The Jazz Organ Trio and the subsequent recording Tri-O-City brought Bianchi wider recognition and onto a larger stage as a rising star of the organ.
Following this, Pat would put his musical skills the ultimate test. He organized a concert that would feature himself and his mentor Joey DeFrancesco performing together, each with their own B3’s. Bianchi also invited renowned drummer, Byron Landham to round out the trio. The concert was success and a night Bianchi will never forget. A brief stint in NYC would soon follow and Bianchi quickly established himself on the competitive New York scene. Legendary saxophonist Lou Donaldson immediately took notice of the young organist. Donaldson would hire him when organist Dr. Lonnie Smith could not make an engagement. Upon the recommendation of saxophonist Javon Jackson, Bianchi was hired by drummer Alvin Queen for a week long engagement in Europe. Pat then worked with Alvin for almost 2 years. Joining “Queen’s” group not only provided a valuable education for Bianchi, but also helped him establish important friendships and musical relationships that would lead to many opportunities in the future. However, due to personal reasons, Bianchi decided to return to Denver.
Upon resuming his tenure in Denver, Bianchi joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder Jazz Studies Program. During this time he recorded his first album as a leader, East Coast Roots, which includes Mark Whitfield on guitar and Byron Landham on drums. At the same time, Bianchi began working closely with drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. on collaborative projects including, co-leading The Unity Project (a tribute to organist Larry Young and his album Unity).
Bianchi returned to New York City in June of 2008, “When I first came back to New York, I felt like the scene was locked up. There were so many new organ players and it was tough for me to find a gig. Thankfully, during that time I was touring with the Joey DeFrancesco Trio playing mostly Rhodes, but sometimes organ as well. We even did a summer tour opening for Steely Dan.” In time and with the help some old friends like alto saxophonist, Bruce Williams and tenor saxophonist, Adam Niewood, Pat began working more frequently, gaining visibility and new opportunities began to materialize.. He officially joined Lou Donaldson’s quartet in 2009 performing with Lou for almost a year and a half before joining Pat Martino’s working trio in 2011. Bianchi was featured on Tim Warfield’s recording, Sentimental Journey, a follow up to Warfield’s recording One For Shirley (on which he also appears). Bianchi also continued to perform with Ralph Peterson Jr., forging ahead with The Unity Project, recording much of this material on Peterson’s CD Outer Reaches. Soon after Bianchi released his second recording as a leader, Back Home. Showcasing him in a variety of settings, his most recent CD features Terell Stafford, Ralph Peterson Jr, Wayne Escoffery and other guests. East Coast Roots and Back Home are available for purchase on this website and iTunes.
Bianchi has worked with many notable artists including: George Coleman, Randy Johnston, Lewis Nash, Houston Person, Tim Warfield, Terell Stafford, Mark Whitfield, Ed Cherry, Gary Thomas, Harvey Mason, Eric Marienthal, Byron Landham, Lou Donaldson, Till Bronner, Brad Leali, Dave Stryker, Cecil Brooks III, Chuck Loeb, Christian McBride, Eric Alexander, Pete Bernstein, Jesse Davis, Vincent Herring, Ralph Peterson Jr, Kenny Washington, Jerry Weldon, Paul Bollenback, Sean Jones, Richie Cole, Ari Hoenig, Wayne Escoffery, Javon Jackson, Winard Harper, Greg Gisbert, Plas Johnson, John Hart, Bruce Williams, Adam Niewood, Bill Goodwin, Roseanna Vitro, Jonathan Kreisberg and many others.
“I feel very fortunate to have played with so many incredible musicians. It has truly been an experience that has shaped me, taught me so much and continues to give me the inspiration to push forward and grow as a musician.”