The Miracle of Mosaic. The Complete February 1957 Jimmy Smith Blue Note Sessions
is not a new release. It made the market in 1994 as a limited edition set of 5,000 three CD or 5 LP sets by the masters of the jazz reissue, Michael Cuscuna and Mosaic Records. The copy I have is numbered 3801 (so I suspect there will be plenty available for the time being). I own three other Mosaic sets, and all of them are unique collector's items.
I see Jimmy Smith's recording career divided into four phases that I base on his stop use. The first and earliest phase is best illustrated on his earliest Blue Note recordings, A New Sound, A New Star: Jimmy Smith at the Organ
(LP Volumes 1-3 collected on two CDs ) which were recorded in 1956. These were Smith's earliest recordings, and were all in a organ, guitar, drum format. Their sound is typified by a very bright set of stop settings; a sound with almost a carnival feel. Smith's playing is white hot with an edge that would eventually became rounder as he matured. The second phase, to which the this Mosaic collection belongs, was recorded about a year later and finds Smith refining his organ tone and beginning to stretch out with longer performances, anticipating his 1960s Blue Note dates. In the third phase, Smith has fully matured and made the most vital music of his 40-year career. Late 1958 to1960 saw the recording of House Party
, The Sermon
, Cool Blues
, Home Cookin'
, Open House/Plain Talk
, Back at the Chicken Shack
, Midnight Special
, Prayer Meetin'
. Whoa! A Soul Jazz festival. The last Jimmy Smith phase was his Verve recordings, often in a big band setting and often with the arrangements of the formidable Oliver Nelson.
The Complete February 1957 Jimmy Smith Blue Note Sessions
collects all of the recordings Smith made on February 11th, 12th, and 13th 1957. Enough material was recorded for five LPs ( A Date With Jimmy Smith Volume 1
[BLP 1547], A Date With Jimmy Smith Volume 2
[BLP 1548], Jimmy Smith at the Organ Volume 1
[BLP 1551], Jimmy Smith at the Organ Volume 2
[BLP 1556], and The Sounds of Jimmy Smith
[BLP 1556]). Smith was recorded in settings from a sextet to solo organ. Hard Bop's royalty supported Smith on these recordings. This royalty included Lou Donaldson, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Art Blakey, and Kenny Burrell. In addition, Smith's most regular organ trio commrades, Donald Bailey on drums and Eddie McFadden on guitar were also on hand for the recordings.
Twentieth Century Bach.
Legions of words have been eloquently written about these records. Rather than revisit that material, I have focused on what were the most stunning performances of the three CDs: The two solo organ performances. Disc #3 tracks 3 ("All The Things You Are) and 4 (The Flight) affected me as A Clockwork Orange
during my first viewing of that masterpiece in 1990. I was amazed by the contemporaneous nature of both works of art decades after they had been created. Imagine Kern and Hammerstein's "All The Things You Are" composed by Deitrich Buxtehude, transcribed by Bach, and performed by Handel. You get the Idea. Smith's "The Flight" is equally as amazing. Recorded 40 years ago, and fresh as yesterday to this reviewer's year 2000 years.
Hard Bop Gotterdammerung.
Jimmy Smith's music might be considered the bridge between pure Hard Bop and Soul Jazz. The Complete February 1957 Jimmy Smith Blue Note Sessions
is a testament in that evolution and a very important one.