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Jimmy Smith: Damn!

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The king of the B-3 organ returns to Verve and apropos for that homecoming his producers have surrounded him with the label’s most promising youngsters. Additionally, seven of the nine tracks are lifted by one of Verve’s singular veterans, who it turns out Jimmy never recorded with previously, the late drum master Arthur Taylor. And the proceedings bear out the delight they must have been to record. Jimmy opens with James Brown’s signature, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” (and what an even more inspiring track that might have been with one of the brass ensembles, either Steve Turre’s or Lester Bowie’s!), which bassist Christian McBride, a known J.B.-aholic, takes vigorous delight in bottoming out. Other guests include trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton; and saxmen Abraham Burton, Ron Blake, Mark Turner (a promising new voice from the TanaReid band), and Tim Warfield. A most apt addition to the band is the soulful guitarist Mark Whitfield.

There’s a palpable joy in these grooves and these youngsters (and two old veteran peers, including Bernard Purdie, who drums on two tracks) elicit a strong performance from the master. Witness “Woody ‘N You,” where Hargrove and Payton trade heated exchanges while Jimmy smiles away in the rhythm section; or the affable tenor barbs thrown around between Warfield and Blake on Gene Ammons’ “The One Before This.”

Pure, in-the-pocket Jimmy Smith is everywhere, but nowhere in greater evidence than on “This Here,” where he swings hard on A.T.’s tempo. – Willard Jenkins