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Trio Jam: Buffalo's Organ Fairchild returns to Ithaca Friday night

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Greg Meadows
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Organ Fairchild

Buffalo-based trio Organ Fairchild returns to Ithaca Friday night to perform at the Upstairs.

The band – Joe Bellanti (organ, keyboards), Corey Kertzie (drums, percussion), and Dave Ruch (guitar) – is touring to promote its recently released debut album, “Brewed in Buffalo.”

Recorded and mixed by Kertzie in his basement studio and mastered by Soulive’s Alan Evans, the album includes nine original tunes.

“We all love the classic organ trio format – Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, and all those early 1960s groups – but we all come from a rock background and grew up playing in Grateful Dead cover bands,” Ruch said in a recent phone interview. “So in putting this band together, the thought was, ‘how hard can we rock in this format, and how many different places could we take the music?’

“We’re definitely not a traditional organ trio in terms of material or our take on how we play the instruments. It’s definitely more akin to Soulive, but we’re probably even a little more rock and less jazz than they are.”

Veterans of the Western New York music scene, Ruch and his bandmates go back a long way, nearly 40 years, when they played in a group called Wild Knights, a popular cover band based out of Williamsville, a suburb of Buffalo.

“I joined in 1983, when I was 18 or 19,” Ruch said. “We played together in that band for 10 years and then went our separate ways, but we always kept in touch.”

They reconvened in 2019, when they were hired for another friend’s gig.

“He left the stage and the three of us started noodling around and that’s when the idea dawned on me that we could probably cover a lot of ground,” Ruch said. “But we ended up as an organ trio because these were the two guys I wanted to put a band together with, and those were the two other instruments they played.”

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Organ Fairchild's debut album, "Brewed in Buffalo," was released in September.

But as with many bands, the pandemic brought its momentum to a crashing halt. “The band started literally one month before covid,” Ruch said “We had our first gig, and was off to this great start, then everything closed down for quite a while.

Earlier this year, Organ Fairchild was voted Number 1 out of 64 up-and-coming bands in NYS Music's statewide 2021 “March Madness” competition. And now the trio is looking to make up for lost time this fall with a series of shows across central and western New York.

“It’s been great to get out and start to meet some new people and play in some new places,” Ruch said.

And about that band name?

“We wanted to name the band ‘Organ Freeman,’ after Morgan Freeman, but we discovered there’s already an organ trio in Los Angeles with that name,” Ruch said. “We were batting around some other names, and we all remembered Morgan Fairchild from posters in the 1970s. It was just a way to get ‘organ’ in the name, and also have a little fun. But we do get a lot of comments from people who have no idea who she is and think it’s a great band name.”

Organ Fairchild performs at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at the Upstairs (formerly known as Lot 10), 106 S. Cayuga St., Ithaca. To learn more about the band and its upcoming tour dates, visit its website.

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, WITHradio.org) and its affiliates.