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Guitarist relishes freedom of trio

What: Jake Langley Trio Where: Hermann's Jazz Club When: Tonight at 8 Tickets: $15 advance, $18 door (tel.

What: Jake Langley Trio

Where: Hermann's Jazz Club

When: Tonight at 8

Tickets: $15 advance, $18 door (tel. 250-386-6121)

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How does a Canadian jazz guitarist end up with the guitar amplifier heard on scads of classic Jimmy Smith organ records?

After all, Smith is the most revered Hammond organist in jazz. So if you're into organ trios, this amplifier -- used by Smith's guitarist Kenny Burrell -- is almost a holy relic.

For five years, Toronto guitarist Jake Langley toured with Hammond B-3 organ whiz Joey DeFrancesco (they performed in Victoria in 2004). DeFrancesco, one of the world's top jazz organists, was a close friend of Smith.

When Smith died in 2005, many of his instruments were bequeathed to DeFrancesco. Among them was a guitar amp used by Burrell on many of Smith's famous 1960s sides, such as Back at the Chicken Shack and Midnight Special. DeFrancesco was happy to pass it along to his own guitarist.

"I lived and breathed those records when I was a teen-ager," says Langley, 35, who's leading his own organ trio at Hermann's Jazz Club tonight.

The guitarist's latest disc, Movin' and Groovin', features DeFrancesco playing Smith's old organ, with Langley plugging into the "Jimmy Smith" Fender Twin amp.

Langley doesn't take that one on tour, however. Nor will he bring along any of his collectible 1950s Gibson L5 archtop guitars to Hermann's Jazz Club. Not trusting the airlines with his precious axes, he'll haul along a serviceable 1970s Gibson instead. As for a guitar amplifier, Langley says he is happy to use whatever the Victoria Jazz Society provides.

Today, the jazz organ trio isn't as beloved as it once was. Yet back in the 1950s and 1960s, the blues-based jazz performed by these threesomes was a mainstay. Langley, who adores this format, has played with many stars of the classic organ trio. His resumé includes performances with such Hammond titans as Dr. Lonnie Smith ("a weird guy but a lot of fun"), Jimmy McGriff and, of course, DeFrancesco himself.

A Toronto native, Langley moved to New York City about four years ago. He was playing with DeFrancesco at the time. The move was a natural, given that the organist's management was in New York. And Langley was on the road most of the time anyway.

A year ago, Langley ventured out on his own as an organ trio bandleader. His current Jake Langley Trio includes organist Sam Yahel (voted repeatedly "No. 1 Rising Star Organist" in Down Beat magazine) and drummer Ian Froman.

What Langley loves most about being in a trio is the freedom it provides. Fewer players means the band can take U-turns with nary a train wreck. "It's exactly like that. And the conversation we have musically on the bandstand with organ, drums and guitar enables me to really feel at home, to take risks."

achamberlain@tc.canwest.com