Jimmy Smith was a visionary who possessed the foresight and creative mind to take an unconventional instrument and place it in the mainstream. His musical skills were far more advanced than those of any other jazz organist who came before or after. There was the blues-drenched tradition and his innate groove and sense of swing, of course, but what Jimmy had above all was a keen harmonic sense.
Jimmy's playing was so advanced that he was playing like Coltrane before Coltrane. In fact, in 1955, Trane was in Jimmy's band, and I'm positive he copped many of his things from Jimmy. Other cats were credited with the newer style of jazz, and in most cases rightfully so, but Jimmy should be right there with all of them. Miles called him the eighth wonder of the world.
He played with some of our greatest and most legendary jazz figures: Billy Hart, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, James Moody, George Coleman, etc. He kept cats working for years. When the music scene abandoned the Hammond B3, Jimmy was still out there humpin' and breaking his ass. His body of recorded works is overwhelming. He's right up there with the genius of Ray Charles, Miles, Trane, Bird--all of them.
My Pop introduced me to Jimmy when I was a baby, and I had the opportunity to meet and sit in with him when I was 7. Our paths would cross over the years, including when we did the two recordings together. I was very fortunate to spend so much time with him in his last year. He was my mentor and my friend. I loved him.
More Articles by Joey DeFrancesco
More Articles in Community Articles
Tony Adamo Featured on Allaboutjazz
Francisco Yobino: Do Small Things with Great Love
An Interview With Bassist Joe Sanders
Blue Note Records: A Diamond Celebration
AVAILABLE NOW - Bassist/Composer OMER AVITAL Delves Into The Culture of His Homeland Through Jazz On His New Recording, NEW SONG, available on Motema Music - November 4, 2014
Jason Paul Harman Byrne
Discover the Jazz Innovators of Tomorrow with In the Mix