Shirley Scott

Today, I’m enjoying the music of organist, Shirley Scott. You guessed it, “queen of the organ!” “Famous for her impeccable sense of swing and leadership within soul jazz, she developed her reputation on the Hammond B3 organ.” (NPR) In her interview with Marian McPartland on Piano Jazz recording in 1992, she says her first memories were sitting in her mother’s lap playing piano at age 2 or 3. [1]

When she was 18 or so, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis came to her hometown of Philadelphia and was looking for an organist for his group. She happened to be the only one around, so she got the job and ended up having a very fruitful collaboration with him. She says he was her teacher and she learned so much from those years working with him. [1]

Scott recorded her first solo album, “Great Scott” in 1958 and recorded more than 50 solo albums for the rest of her career! According to Alex Henderson, “Her reputation was cemented during the ’60s on several superb, soulful organ/soul-jazz dates where she demonstrated an aggressive, highly rhythmic attack blending intricate bebop harmonies with bluesy melodies and a gospel influence, punctuating everything with great use of the bass pedals.” [2] She also married and collaborated with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and made many recordings with him in the ’60s. I love this recording of her playing one of my favorite tunes, “Sweet Lorraine:”

She began teaching jazz history and piano at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in Philly in 1991 and “acted as musical director for the 1993 Bill Cosby television show You Bet Your Life. She ceased performing publicly in the late 1990s, and died of heart failure in 2002.” [1]

Its really lovely to listen to Shirley and Marian talk about music and play together and for each other on their episode of Piano Jazz, so I highly recommend giving it a listen! Also, since Ms. Scott was so prolific in the recording studio, it is not difficult to find recordings of her outstanding organ playing. Here is a playlist of her music.

Many thanks to my friend, musical mentor, and colleague, Andre Hayward, for hipping me to Shirley Scott!


[1] Grant Jackson. “Shirley Scott on Piano Jazz.” Piano Jazz, NPR. March 29, 2013. (

[2] Alex Henderson. “Shirley Scott.” All Music. (

[3] “Shirley Scott, 67, Performer Known as the Queen of the Organ” The New York Times. March 16, 2002 (

Wikipedia contributors, “Shirley Scott,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 20, 2019).


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