Thursday, February 10, 2005

Jimmy Smith, 1925-2005

Jimmy Smith
The Hammond B3 organ and Jimmy Smith. Two names that simply live side-by-side in jazz. Yesterday Jimmy Smith died. To say that he revolutionised the jazz sound is an understatement. In establishing his reputation in the late 1950s Smith's bands
often did away with a bassist, playing the basslines himself with his feet literally walking on the organ pedals: organ-guitar-drums became his classic line-up, working principally alongside Donald Bailey and Kenny Burrell, as well as the sax player Stanley Turrentine. In creating his infectious music Smith became a one-man soloist and rhythm section, his vocabulary consistently traced back to the churning 12-bar blues. Some of his great albums are from the 1960s - especially The Sermon! and Back At The Chicken Shack. But he was still playing, still on the road and still recording. I particularly like his sardonic Dot Com Blues (2001). And a new album with his protegé, Joey DeFrancesco, is due out from Concord next week.

There are obituaries here, here, and here. And there is a nice memoir from the time Blue Note's Francis Wolff and his partner, Alfred Lion, first encountered Jimmy Smith:

I first heard Jimmy at Small's Paradise in January 1956. It was his first gig in New York. He was a stunning sight. A man in convulsions, face contorted, crouched over in apparent agony, his fingers flying, his foot dancing over the pedals. The air was filled with waves of sound I had never heard before. The noise was shattering. A few people sat around, puzzled, but impressed. He came off the stand, smiling, the sweat dripping all over him. "So what do you think?" "Yeah!" I said. That’s all I could say. Alfred Lion had already made up his mind. When he heard a good thing - that was enough.
(via Norm)


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