Dr. Lonnie Smith “The Mystic” Guru of the Hammond B-3

MCCC, Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 8:00PM

By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.

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The Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio brought the right Jazz medicine to Montgomery County Community College on Saturday, March 22, at 8 p.m. in the Science Center Theater, A master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ, Dr. Smith is a legendary composer and musician who has been featured on many albums, recorded and performed with a virtual “who’s who” of the greatest Jazz, Blues and R&B giants around the world. This performance represents the second of a two-part event hosted by the college, entitled “The Griot and the Mystic,” with highly regarded jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders as the “Griot” and Smith as the “mystic.” Sanders previously performed on Oct. 12, 2013.

Dr. Smith led his trio through a soulful, mind-bending, grooving set; featuring Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar and Dr. Smith’s grandson Joe Dyson on drums. The trio didn’t run through a long playlist, they opted to play a few tunes, letting each one unfold, while taking their time allowing the audience to explore all the elements of each one.

The set featured several tunes off his new album, The Healer, opening with “Backtrack” with a mysterious introduction. As Dr. Smith chants along with the melody he plays on his Hammond B3, which heats up into a burning solo from guitarist Krieisberg, who runs a serious flurry of lines on his solo. Next, a very smooth version of "Mellow Mood", written by the legendary Jimmy Smith.

On "Frame for the Blues" by Slide Hampton, Dr. Smith showed us his wide range of Hammond B3 skills, making this tune spicy. Dyson never let up on the drums keeping the tempo right in the pocket. The set continued with a very funky groove on “Sixty Ways to Leave Your Lover”. Dr. Smith takes the lead with a lot of harmony from Kreisberg’s guitar. The tempo is fast and Dyson generated a lot of excitement from the audience with his superb use of cymbals and responses to the organ and guitar.

Just before performing his cinematic suite, Dr. Smith introduces “Beehive” with a short story about how you tell children not do something, but they do it anyway. He described how he would tell his son not to go in the woods because of the beehives. “Stay out of the woods”, he said. On “Beehive” Dr. Smith showed off his genius using a Mac PC to create a composition layered with electronic orchestral textures. He explored dramatic low brass and high string sounds, which got answered by a powerful guitar solo and swinging drums.

The trio then segued into a refreshing version of "My Favorite Things." Kreisberg picked up on what Dr. Smith did at the organ and scatting, which created some beautifully engaging musical tapestries. Dyson weaved his percussions an rhythmic complexity throughout the tunes.

For the finale, the trio performed “Pilgrimage”, beautiful piece in which Dr. Smith provides a few Stevie Wonder-style vocals ‘you are the sunshine of my life- apple of my eye”. The tune reminded me of an angelic hymn. Kreisberg’s guitar repeated the melody with a heartfelt solo. While Dyson on drums kept us nodding to the beat. The audience exploded in appreciative applause!

Just as s everyone started to depart the theatre, Dr. Smith returned to the stage walking with a metallic cane and took what we though was a final bow. He smiled, looked at the remaining audience, then began playing his, now amplified cane, as if slapping a funky bass guitar! Mouths dropped, whispers passed – “what’s he got there?, Wow!, look at that!”. Dr. Smith walked up and down the stage, toying with the audience, he asked “what do you think if this?”The audience loved it. The walking cane is called a" Slaperoo" and was custom designed for him. That electric cane and funky groove he played brought down the house!

Stay tuned for more reviews and photos from the upcoming 2014-2015 Lively Arts Jazz series. For more information visit http://www.mc3.edu/arts/lively-arts.

More photos from the performance are in Ben Johnson's photo gallery by clicking here Click Here

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.