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Joey DeFrancesco with Jimmy Smith: Legacy

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Legacy is more than just a two-organ jam session, which Jimmy Smith and DeFrancesco already engaged in on the latter’s live recording Incredible! (Concord, 2000). Rather, this CD is a thoughtfully conceived studio project that pushes the elder B3 burner beyond his obvious bop ‘n’ blues strengths.

The title track, for instance, is an open-ended modal number that has DeFrancesco’s longtime guitarist Paul Bollenback playing electric sitar-guitar and DeFrancesco slowly warming up the room with droning, Eastern-influenced statements on piano before launching into McCoy Tyner territory. Smith responds with some harmonically provocative right-handed flurries that sound more like Larry Young’s avant-ish excursions than what we have come to associate with the man who penned such greasy anthems as “Big Fat Mama” and “The Sermon.”

The band takes it out again on DeFrancesco’s “Jones’n for Elvin,” highlighted by Byron Landham’s decidedly Elvin-esque drum intro and also featuring a strong guest appearance by tenor saxophonist James Moody. The group dips into a traditional blues bag on Smith’s “Dot Com Blues,” “Midnight Special” and “Blues for Bobby C” and wades knee-deep into some funk on “I’ve Got My Mojo Workin’,” with Jimmy’s gruff, earthy vocals upfront. Smith’s other signature number, “Back at the Chicken Shack,” is rendered as Latin jazz, courtesy of bassist Tony Banda’s tumbao groove, brother Ramon Banda’s timbales, Joey DeLeon’s congas and pianist Raul Yanez’s montuno rhythm.

Legacy is Smith’s final studio recording; he died on February 8 at the age of 76. But this CD is a loving homage to the man who revolutionized the organ 50 years ago.