Billy Franze, Kenny Horst and "Downtown" Bill Brown at Tuesday's final Organ Night. (Photo by Tom Wallace, Star Tribune)
The bells are tolling on Organ Night at the Artists’ Quarter. One of the longest-running weekly gigs in town – about 16 years, by our count -- the Tuesday night jam sessions at the downtown St. Paul jazz haven came to an end this week.
Photographer Tom Wallace shot it -- you can see the results here.
Word is the shows haven’t been pulling in crowds like they used to, but also the club and participants -- organist “Downtown” Bill Brown, guitarist Billy Franze and drummer and AQ owner Kenny Horst -- simply wanted to try something new.
Organ Night started in the mid-’90s when the Artists’ Quarter was still located over in Lowertown, back when there was little to nothing else in that corner of downtown.
The shows were originally led by veteran B3 pumper Billy Holloman, who recounted in a 2004 interview how he doubted crowds would show on Tuesday nights when Horst first proposed the idea. “And for about the first year or so, nobody did come,” he cracked. Things finally clicked once the club started offering free soul food (mostly provided by Holloman). Brown took over from Holloman a few years back.
Holloman also provided the best line I’ve heard about playing a B3 compared to piano: “It's the difference between riding a Harley and pedaling a bicycle.”