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Extended Analysis

Jimmy Smith: Retrospective

By Published: February 22, 2005
Jimmy Smith
Blue Note Records

Blue Note Records' 4-CD Retrospective is a 38-song summary of Jimmy Smith's music from 1956-62. Along with artists like Art Blakey and Horace Silver, Smith not only came to define the "Blue Note" sound, he also molded and enriched the genres of hard bop and soul jazz. Born into a family of pianists, Smith was already an accomplished pianist by the age of ten, when he won the Major Bowles radio amateur contest in '35. After serving in the Navy during WWII, Smith attended music school near Philadelphia where his skills on the piano and other instruments improved. Smith played with his father in various R&B combos after music school, though he soon he grew weary of the numerous out of tune pianos he encountered at clubs.

After hearing Wild Bill Davis on an early Hammond-made organ, Smith decided to give the instrument a try. It was, as he would agree, a God-sent decision. He saved and bought the recently developed Hammond B3 model in '55, spending the following three months learning and controlling the organ's numerous controls, its vast range and monstrous sound. By the time Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion heard him in January of '56 at Small's Paradise in Harlem, Smith had developed a singular style that weaved jazz with blues and soul. A band onto himself, Smith blended percussion, rhythm, bass lines, chords and single note runs into his resonant, soulful persuasions. Though Fats Waller and other jazz artists had recorded and experimented with the organ, no one spoke like Smith. His voice and his vision were cherished at Blue Note, where he was given time and resources to record to his heart's content. While many of these recordings were little more than jam sessions, they were rarely bland or over-indulgent.

Selections on Retrospective come from the twenty-plus albums Smith made during this period and include plenty of Smith's out of print material as well as his better-known hits, making it a worthwhile investment for old and new fans alike. The opening CDs, in particular, are especially exciting as Smith discovers licks and riffs that accompany him to this day on songs like "You Get 'Cha," "The Preacher," and "The Champ," all taken from his first album (currently out of print), A New Sound, A New Star. Selections from The Incredible Jimmy Smith, The Incredible Jimmy Smith at Club Baby Grand , and A Date with Jimmy Smith round out the first disc.

Disc two begins with three selections from 1957's Jimmy Smith at the Organ, an exciting "Yardbird Suite," "Summertime," "All Day Long" and "The Duel." The standard "I Can't Get Started" is wonderfully interpreted from 1957's Plays Pretty For You. Two selections from the recently released Groovin' at Small's Paradise , "Body and Soul," and "Slightly Monkish," are better examples of Smith's deft touch with melody. The contents of the third CD start with "The Sermon," and "Flamingo" (dig Lee Morgan on this one), both from the uproarious The Sermon. One of Smith's better interpretations comes on Monk's jumpy "Hackensack" from the album Softly As a Summer Breeze. Better known tunes from his wildly popular albums Home Cookin', Back at the Chicken Shack, Midnight Special and Rockin' the Boat round out most of the final two CDs.

Along with Smith's rich organ sounds, this box set features some of Blue Note's greatest stars: Kenny Burrell, Lou Donaldson, Stanley Turrentine, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec, Blue Mitchell, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan and Art Blakey among others are heard with a soulful zest that equals and rivals Smith's organ. Combined with newly remastered 24-bit sound, Retrospective is guaranteed to please.

Personnel: Jimmy Smith (organ), with collective personnel: Thornel Schwartz (guitar), Bay Perry (drums), Donald Bailey (drums), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Eddie McFadden (guitar), Art Blakey (drums), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), George Coleman (alto saxophone), Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone), Philly Joe Jones (drums), Percy France (tenor saxophone), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Grant Green (guitar), Jackie MacLean (alto saxophone), Ike Quebec (tenor saxophone), Quentin Warren (guitar), Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), John Patton (tambourine), Grady Tate (drums), Errol "Crusher"? Bennett (percussion)

Track Listing:

CD1: You Get 'Cha; The Preacher; The Champ; Bayou; Judo Mambo; Willow Weep for Me; Fiddlin' the Minors; Well, You Needn't; Get Happy; Groovy Date.

CD2: Yardbird Suite; Summertime; All Day Long; The Duel; I Can't Get Started; Body and Soul; Slightly Monkish; Blues After All; 'Round Midnight.

CD3: The Sermon; Flamingo; Hackensack; I Got a Woman; See See Rider; When Johnny Comes Marching Home; Sista Rebecca; Old Folks.

CD4: Back at the Chicken Shack; Minor Chant; Midnight Special; The Jumpin' Blues; Squeeze Me; Ain't No Use; Pork Chop; Can Heat; Come Rain or Come Shine; Prayer Meetin'; Fungii Mama.

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