CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

Dr. Lonnie Smith: All in My Mind (Blue Note)

Review of album from influential organist with his working trio, plus special guests

Cover of Dr. Lonnie Smith album All in My Mind
Cover of Dr. Lonnie Smith album All in My Mind

Judging from these seven live tracks, Dr. Lonnie Smith’s celebratory 75th birthday stand at New York’s Jazz Standard this past summer must have been a soulful gas. With his prismatic swirls, dramatic gestures, tidal swells and unforeseen detours, Smith delights in defining the young-at-heart aesthetic.

A variable-intensity trio showcase, All in My Mind touches on low-key beauty with “On a Misty Night,” dabbles with slick suggestions during “Devika” and plays with fire on a rolling and rollicking “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” with guest Joe Dyson on drums. Smith artfully controls the dynamic within his band, but there’s a sense of shared responsibility with guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg when it comes to taking the music beyond the horizon. Kreisberg’s guitar, painting darting dark-blue lines against Smith’s polychromatic scrims, is something magical to behold. And regular trio drummer Johnathan Blake, not to be left out of the conversation, proves to be a pure and potent force in the equation.

While plenty of ground is covered across this program, five of the numbers can still be tagged as standard organ-trio fare. The two that avoid that categorization? “Alhambra,” which finds Smith painting an intriguing and exotic first act with brass and reed sounds (on keyboard) before kicking into high gear, and the title track, where the organist lets his pleading voice shine alongside Alicia Olatuja’s stirring singing. Both numbers present as curveballs, initially arcing away from the norm before reorienting toward home.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album All in My Mind by Dr. Lonnie Smith on iTunes.

Read Evan Haga’s review of a performance by Dr. Lonnie Smith at the Jazz Standard in NYC.