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Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bill Smith at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Joey DeFrancesco

It was hardly an appropriate room for a B-3 jam. The cavernous Alice Tully Hall, a prestigious and pristine uptown space that is part of the sprawling Lincoln Center campus, lacked the kind of intimacy and necessary funk that brings out the best in Hammond B-3 organ players. But they wailed on anyway, regardless of the fact that there were no martinis or ribs on the premises.

The four featured players at this Jazz at Lincoln Center event were as individual stylistically as you can get. Joey DeFrancesco, the youngest at 30, was the burner of the bunch, flaunting lightning right hand licks and a hunger for up tempos. Jimmy McGriff, the elder statesman at 65, moved slowly and laboriously onto the stage but lit up when seated behind the hulking 400-pound beast. While McGriff’s performance was grounded deeply in the blues, Dr. Lonnie Smith was barely tethered to Earth at all. With omnipresent turban, walking stick and flowing white robes, “The Turbanator” struck an enigmatic presence while following his otherworldly muse to the stratosphere. At this point in his career, Smith is light years beyond the funk and grease he conjured up in the late ’60s and early ’70s at B-3 joints like the Key Club in Newark, Club Harlem in Atlantic City or the Club Mozambique in Detroit. These days, affecting a Sun Ra-esque pose while accompanying himself on heavenly falsetto wordless vocals, he’s dealing on more celestial turf.

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