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Doug Largent Brings Jazz to The Triangle

By: Danielle Rode

Doug Largent, jazz musician and organist of the Doug Largent Trio, discussed his band and his thoughts on being a musician in an interview via phone. Chapel Hill native and UNC alumnus, Largent has been playing music in the Triangle for years; Largent’s nervous excitement and down-to-earth character only confirmed that he’s a musician dedicated to his local roots and the art of music.

Music has always been a part of Largent’s life having played bass starting in high school in 1988 to 2010. He has now been focused on the organ for the past five years. Largent started taking piano lessons in second grade but ended up hating it and decided not to continue (ironic now that he’s a professional organist). “I grew up going to church as a kid and there was this fantastic organ player; I just loved hearing him play and thought it sounded so amazing. I’m definitely thankful that my parents made me go to church all those years so that I could hear him play every Sunday.”

His love for the organ only continued as he went through school and on to college at UNC Chapel Hill. Largent took it upon himself to learn the organ and master its music: “I knew that if I put my head down and worked really hard at it I’d get good at it. I’ve had several different teachers; I think the best teacher I ever had was Steve Anderson at UNC. He was a piano player but he really gave me the tools I needed. He was kind but very strict, and I learned all the more because of it.” That passion lead him to New York City where he spent ten years playing and listening to jazz in clubs around the city. “There was a lot of great high-level jazz that I got to listen to and play with…I always had the organ in the back of my mind; that it was something I wanted to pursue. The first time I saw an organ group that made me want to play was at 36. Society thinks that by 36 you should be kicking ass at what you want to do… I was beginning something brand new with a one year old. I was a little selfish but when I’m inspired to do something I have to do it.”

Largent decided to bring his inspiration back home to Chapel Hill and form the Doug Largent Trio in 2010 along with guitarist Brad Maiani and an excellent rotation of drummers. The trio takes the smooth style of 50s and 60s jazz to create their own melodies, “a lot of jazz and pop from that era already have the Hammond organ, so it’s easier, I don’t really have to adapt that style to the organ because it already has it in it” Largent said of his own composing style. Each band member brings their own tastes into the mix when composing their music but they find a way to make it work: “Someone will write a song and bring it in and the rest of the band will try to do what that person had in mind. It’s usually individual. We try to work off of each other and complement each other.” Of the songs they usually perform about twenty percent are songs that Largent and his band members have composed themselves, and about eighty percent covers that they bring back. “We don’t like to do the typical music that you always hear, we try finding oddball old songs that aren’t played as much…It works and we love it. It’s vintage but it’s new the way we do it.”

Throughout the interview Largent’s previous timidity couldn’t hide the enthusiasm he has for his profession. His excitement heightened when he spoke about why he has a new found respect for music theory and how it helped him understand what makes music so good: “It’s about the elements of music; I didn’t used to know what scales were or what a chord was. I would think wow that’s kicking ass but I have no idea why. Now I have the satisfaction of understanding why it’s kicking ass and sounds so awesome… I remember my Miles Davis CD, I loved it but I didn’t know why. Now when I listen to it I learn something new every time. You get a whole new perspective because you understand so much more about it; it’s like listening to a whole new CD each time you play it.”

The Doug Largent Trio is busy at work; averaging six shows a week, they have become well known around local venues and are always looking to book new shows. Largent’s personal idea of success however, does not include searching for fame but does include hard work: “music is such a weird thing because you never know if you’re succeeding. There’s never a point where you can say now I’m a master of this because your expectations goes up as your skill level goes up. it’s a constant quest to get learn more and improve…If you just keep practicing, if you work really hard at your instrument then the opportunities open themselves up. I think it’s more about having faith in myself…another five years and people will seek me out.”

You can see The Doug Largent Trio at their next show April 28 at The Looking Glass Café in Carrboro, NC or check out their website at douglargent.com

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