Organ trios and quartets were ubiquitous by the mid-1960s. In African American neighborhood bars and clubs up and down the East Coast, throughout the Rust … Read More “Chronology: Grant Green, Larry Young, and Elvin Jones Move Organ Jazz Forward”
4. Jimmy Smith: The Sermon! (Blue Note, 1959 [recorded Aug. 25, 1957 and Feb. 25, 1958])
Jimmy Smith was the visionary of the Hammond organ in jazz. It had been played before, notably by Count Basie on some early-in-the-decade sessions. But Smith was the one who brought all of its churchiest impulses into the music, in a way that should earn him a seat alongside Ray Charles in the soul pantheon. The consensus picks for Smith’s records tend to be either 1958’s Groovin’ at Smalls Paradise or 1963’s Back at the Chicken Shack. For my money, it’s this one, for the title track alone. Its 20-minute length kept it off the radio, but Smith’s organ is as soaked in blues and gospel flavor as any organ on any record ever made. And its cast of players! “The Sermon” reads like a hard-bop all-star team: Smith, Blakey, saxmen Lou Donaldson and Tina Brooks, guitarist Kenny Burrell, trumpeter Lee Morgan. An astonishing platter.