In the late ’70s, when I was but a lad, I was a founding member of a band called Switch that was a pretty big presence on the R&B charts until the early ’80s. Five albums on the Motown label, Gordy—and lots of tours.
That is the beginning of my sad tale about organs. When Switch toured, I had a Hammond B3 and a real Leslie. I never really thought about how much work that was because, we had crew and I wasn’t lifting it.
Switch broke up in the mid ’80s. Actually, we didn’t break up, we just kind of stopped. In the past few years, we have gotten back together again and we do a few gigs every year. In the meantime time, I kept busy. First in L.A., and for the past 15 years in the live entertainment capital of the world: Las Vegas. I’ve done every kind of gig you can imagine. Now that I do carry my own stuff, a B3 was not on the table in any way, shape or form. I have gravitated towards a two-keyboard setup with a pair of Yamaha Motif workstations. If I needed an organ sound, I used one of the ones on the Motif. Over time, I could tell myself that those sounds were fine and I did not need anything else.
It all worked fine until I met a horrible human who goes by the name of Rev. Bill. I started playing trombone in his soul band and when he found out I played keys, I started doubling (just like I did in Switch). This is all cool except that the Rev. is an organ purist—to the point that he owns and carries a Korg CX3 even though his keyboard skills are, well, shall we say, questionable. He carries it because he wants to know that whoever is playing keys with him will have a really great organ sound. The first time I played it, I hugged it and told the Rev. that I would play keys with him anytime as long as I could play the Korg.
But he doesn’t gig a lot (and an 8-piece band in Vegas these days is hard to book) and I make my living playing music. I got busy with other gigs. And the Rev. took the CX3 away.
The shakes from the withdrawal eventually stopped and I kept gigging. But there was always something missing. Those used-to-be-fine Motif organ sounds were just was not doing it. I actually avoided playing organ sounds as much as possible.
Then he called and asked if I wanted to check out the Numa Organ.
It’s great. Endorsed by jazz organ guru Joey DeFranceso, it especially excels in the clean organ tones of jazz, R&B and gospel.
It’s not perfect. The manual is useless—the Leslie emulation is good but not as good as the Leslie on the CX3. The black keys in the bottom octave initially threw me. They operate just like the ones on a B3. They are really preset switches, but where the switch/keys on the B3 stay down when depressed—on the Numa they bounce back like all the other keys and the bank of LEDs above the keys light to show which preset has been selected. At first I thought this was just dumb. Then I found out that the Numa is also a very good MIDI controller and when in that mode the bottom octave serves as actual keys and essentially gives you a 73-key controller.
Did I mention that is is about 1/2 the weight of the CX3. Yes, half. It is insanely easy to carry.
When I first got the Numa, I used it on a gig here and there and at home. But since late last year, I have been part of the band at the Gospel Brunch on Sundays at the House of Blues inside the Mandalay Bay Resort at the south end of the Strip. I know, gospel in a casino. Welcome to Las Vegas.
At the Gospel Brunch I play organ probably 75% of the show. So I brought out the Numa. And fell in love with it. The combination of great sounds, ease of use and ease of carrying are unbeatable.
But, like I said, the Rev. is a horrible human so I know he is going to make me give it back. Which brings up the only thing that I still don’t like. At a $2500 list price and two grand at Musician’s Friend, it’s a bit pricey for a financially challenged full-time musician. I’m thinking about entering the witness protection program. Sure, my family would miss me, but I could avoid giving up the Numa. Tough call.
Originally posted 2012-08-15 23:22:37.