is a perfect title for a Johnny Smith record, given that it aptly describes most of his records. Johnny “Hammond” Smith never earned the acclaim of the other organist who bears his last name, and for good reason; he simply isn’t as talented or inventive as the one who carved out several dynamic sessions for Blue Note. Often resorting to a template of well-worn grooves and clichés, Smith is fortunate enough on the first of the two sessions here (1962's Cooks With Gator Tail
) to surround himself with players capable of turning up the heat when he isn’t quite up to the task.
Eddie McFadden paid his dues on Jimmy Smith’s early sessions and obviously learned his lessons; Willis Jackson is a fiery tenor player capable of infusing the proceedings with a heavy dose of rhythm ‘n’ blues. When the quartet sticks to traditional bluesy grooves, everything works well, but they struggle to find something to do with inferior material such as “Besame Mucho.” “No One Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” which could have been a real burner, ends up being cumbersome and loping.
Surprisingly, the second session (1965's The Stinger ), which features more obscure musicians in Houston Person or Earl Edwards on sax and Floyd Smith on guitar, works far better. The group finds the groove on every track, and even the originals have an element of novelty missing in the earlier session. Still, though, both sessions are fairly ordinary, and a listen to this CD may merely inspire someone to put on The Sermon instead. An earlier compilation, Open House, is a better demonstration of Smith’s abilities and features a stellar line-up featuring Thad Jones and Art Taylor.
Personnel: Johnny "Hammond" Smith-organ; Eddie McFadden, Floyd Smith-guitar; Willis Jackson, Houston
Person, Earl Edwards-tenor sax; Loe Stevens.