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Dr. Lonnie Smith: Too Damn Hot

For Too Damn Hot!, Dr. Lonnie Smith sticks to the basics of the B3 canon: blues, ballads and vamps. But these 10 tracks prove that the tried-and-true formats work perfectly in the hands of someone as adept as Smith-and he has a tight band to boot: Peter Bernstein handles the guitar solos, with Rodney Jones playing rhythm guitar; drummers Greg Hutchinson and Fukushi Tainaka alternate drum duties.

Smith avoids crowd-pleasing B3 tricks, like locking into a riff for 12 bars at a stretch or switching voices mid-phrase, focusing instead on solos full of meat and grease, all driven along by some extremely fat bass-pedal lines. On “The Whip” he unleashes a solo that starts with rapid bop lines and goes on to include gospel shouts and finally a frenzied run that sounds like the organ has to be held down before it careens out of control. “Norleans” combines blues with Hutchinson’s second-line beat. After an intro that sounds like something out of either Sun Ra or early Soft Machine, “Track 9” settles into a fast riff with wah-wah guitar and a sharp solo from Bernstein. Of the album’s two ballads, Smith doesn’t play too heavily on Horace Silver’s “Silver Serenade,” but he really fills out the sound with rich chording, complementing his partners’ relatively spare comping. “Someday My Prince Will Come” has a little more of a wail to it in its coda, which gives the oldie a new lease on life.

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