Greg Hatza, of the musical group Greg Hatza ORGANization, just released his new CD called “Diggin Up My Roots,” a collection of R&B and Blues songs that he grew up with.

Greg Hatza’s new CD is called ‘Digging Up My Roots.’ (Courtesy photo)

Greg Hatza’s new CD is called ‘Digging Up My Roots.’ (Courtesy photo)

Hatza started playing professionally at the age of 16 with the Frankie Scott Trio in small towns in central Pennsylvania. Because there were no jazz organ instructors at the time, Greg was largely self taught, picking up most of his insider knowledge from the organ players at jam sessions at a local club called the Grand Hotel.

It was there he met Baltimore Colts’ Lenny Moore who asked the teenager to perform at a club he was opening in Baltimore on Gwynn Oak Avenue.  Moore became Greg’s manager and Baltimore became Greg’s home. He recorded two albums for MCA subsidiary label Coral Records.

In the late sixties, Baltimore was still an “organ” town and had its share of great players who helped Greg hone his jazz organ skills. Lenny Moore’s Club was a great stopping point for a lot of the national jazz who came to Baltimore to perform and it was here that Greg said he met his mentor Jimmy Smith. He also met, and played jam sessions with such personalities as Kenny Burrell, Groove Holmes, Damita Jo, Philly Joe Jones, Roland Kirk, Less McCann, James Moody and Sonny Stitt, among others.

Greg received a degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory and a Master’s from the Peabody Conservatory, and a Masters degree from Baltimore’s Towson State University, where he taught jazz, piano composition, improvisation and music theory for many years. While at Towson, Greg organized a series of jazz concerts. He performed with artists such as David Liebman, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Dennis Chambers, and Dave Samuels. Greg Hatza also participated in many jazz clinics throughout the Midwest with Stan Kenton, and later performed with the Towson Jazz Faculty Quartet in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“Every since I started piano lessons I was drawn to African American music. Improvising boogie woogies on the piano at 5 years old is probably why my mother decided to get me to a piano teacher quick.  My father owned a small restaurant that had a juke box which had all the current R&B, blues and rock & roll songs. When the box was serviced for new records, they gave the old 45’s to my father, who in turn gave them to me,” Hatza told the AFRO.