Jimmy Smith: Back At The Chicken Shack

Thomas Fletcher BY

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Jimmy Smith: Back At The Chicken Shack
Back At The Chicken Shack celebrates 60 years since its recording date at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs. The same session produced Midnight Special (Blue Note, 1961), though Back At The Chicken Shack would have to wait three years for its release. The label's co-founder, Alfred Lion, later revealed that the healthy sales of this album, alongside many others from Jimmy Smith, kept the record company afloat.

The album features, at the time, a youthful but nonetheless outstanding trio of instrumentalists; tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, guitarist Kenny Burrell and longstanding friend on the drums, Donald Bailey. Their locked grooves provide a great grounding for Smith's soulful murmurs and bluesy panache.

Considered a standout among his Blue Note recordings, Back At The Chicken Shack made it into Robert Dimery's book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Before Jimmy Smith, the Hammond B3 Organ had been rarely involved in the spotlight, with the notable exception of Wild Bill Davis, the former pianist with Louis Jordan, who formed his own organ trio in the early 1950s. Downbeat had somewhat dismissively categorized the organ as a "miscellaneous instrument" in its annual polls, though largely thanks to Smith, who paved the way for a new generation of organists, this perception was soon turned on its head.

The album holds two originals by Smith. "Messy Bessie," a hefty twelve-and-a-half-minute moment of brilliance, featuring fine playing from Turrentine and Burrell. "Back At The Chicken Shack" is a simple but infectious blues, where groove is king. Turrentine is to the fore on "Minor Chant," the tune that some say launched his career. The other track on the original release is Oscar Hammerstein II and Sigmund Romberg's "When I Grow Too Old To Dream" a jaunty tune that only takes off once Smith picks up the reins. Later reissues of Back At The Chicken Shack included the previously unreleased "On The Sunny Side Of The Street." It is a pleasant enough, gently swinging rendition, with an elegant solo from Burrell the highlight, but it feels like what it is, an album filler that was left on the cutting floor first time around.

Of all Smith's releases on Blue Note, Verve, and in later years on the Milestone label, Back At The Chicken Shack stands out as one of his best. Smith would go on to influence every great organist that came after him and it is easy to see why on this hugely enjoyable session.

Track Listing

Back At The Chicken Shack; When I Grow Too Old To Dream; Minor Chant; Messy Bessie; On the Sunny Side of the Street


Jimmy Smith: organ, Hammond B3; Stanley Turrentine: saxophone, tenor; Kenny Burrell: guitar, electric; Donald Bailey: drums.

Album information

Title: Back At The Chicken Shack | Year Released: 1963 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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