John Patton, also known as “Big John Patton,” was an American jazz, blues, soul jazz, and R&B musician known for his proficiency on the organ and piano. Born on July 12, 1935, in Kansas City, Missouri, he earned his nickname not due to his size, but from the tune “Big Bad John.” His musical journey began with piano fundamentals taught by his church pianist mother. He was self-taught from around the age of 13 and was inspired by his local Kansas City jazz scene.
Patton’s professional career took off when he got a job playing piano for R&B star Lloyd Price in 1954. This collaboration lasted until 1959 and was a significant learning experience for him. It was during this time that Patton developed an interest in the Hammond B-3 organ, encouraged by drummer Ben Dixon. He moved to New York in late 1959, where he received further guidance in playing the organ.
In 1959, Patton established his own Hammond organ trio and was mentored by Blue Note artist Ike Quebec. This connection led to a significant relationship with guitarist Grant Green. Patton also worked as a sideman for jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson for three and a half years up to 1964, an experience he valued for its influence on his musical style.
Patton was a prominent organist during the golden era of the Hammond B-3 organ from 1963 to 1970. He recorded extensively for Blue Note and collaborated with artists like Lloyd Price, Grant Green, and Lou Donaldson. Although he had a lower profile in the 1970s, Patton experienced a comeback in the 1980s and 1990s, often working with saxophonist John Zorn and incorporating modal and free jazz into his music.
The acid jazz movement in the 1980s led to a resurgence in interest in Patton’s music, particularly in the UK. Blue Note released many previously unreleased sessions from Patton during this time. John Patton passed away on March 19, 2002, in Montclair, New Jersey, from complications arising from diabetes