Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Jimmy Smith: Retrospective

Jimmy Smith

A complete anomaly when he hit the scene in 1956, Jimmy Smith created an unprecedented post-Bird blowing vocabulary on the Hammond B3 organ that was light years beyond what pioneers like Wild Bill Davis, Bill Doggett and Milt Buckner had previously done on the instrument. Back in 1956, Smith came out of the gate on his Blue Note debut, A New Sound, A New Star: Jimmy Smith at the Organ, and blew everybody away. The impression that he made on the jazz scene in subsequent years was staggering. Through the sheer force of his own personality on the bandstand and his pyrotechnic command of the keys and foot pedals, Smith single-handedly brought the 400-plus pound instrument to the forefront of jazz.

Blue Note’s four-CD Retrospective documents the organ genius at the very peak of his awesome powers, from 1956 through 1963. The final track of the boxed set, “Fungii Mama,” fast forwards to a session from 1986, when Smith recorded Go for Whatcha Know with Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell and Grady Tate for the reactivated Blue Note label. By then, Smith’s powers had diminished somewhat, but he’s on fire throughout the rest of the box set, particularly in his exhilarating exchanges with Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell and Lou Donaldson on sessions from 1957’s Jimmy Smith at the Organ. Smith’s 10-minute face-off with Blakey on “The Duel” reaches some outre peaks, while the great organist’s duet with Donaldson on “Summertime” is a marvel of melodic improvisation.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published