There have been many great practitioners of the Hammond organ in jazz history, including Shirley Scott, Groove Holmes, Charles Earland, and Larry Young. Today, Dan Wall and Larry Goldings have helped bring the organ back to the forefront. But perhaps no one can claim the overall impact of the late Jimmy Smith. His harmonic conception and technical prowess are now legendary. Spanning four decades of jazz history, Smith helped define the organ and guitar tradition with folks like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, and George Benson.
Joey DeFrancesco, the organ prodigy who met Smith as a child, and whose father, Papa John, is quite an organist himself, is a very unique player with a deep affinity for Smith. DeFrancesco's ability to encapsulate the sounds of the past with today's knowledge of scales and modality is unsurpassed. His influence on the current state of the organ continues to burgeon. Smith recorded only twice with another organist, both times with DeFrancesco; Incredible
recorded live in 1999, and this disc, Legacy
. Unfortunately, Smith passed away just as the tour for this recording was set to begin.
Although DeFrancesco's playing on the electric piano and other keyboards is fine, the disc's high points come when mentor and protege both sit down at the Hammond. "Dot Com Blues" illustrates this well. A simple mid-tempo swing format showcases the instrument's inherent strengths while allowing for a contrast in solo styles. "I'll Close My Eyes" gives each an opportunity to express his thoughts on a ballad. Smith opens with a clever rhythmic embellishment, a pattern he builds and stretches in to a beautifully expressive dialogue. DeFrancesco follows with some burning 16th note melodic runs, using the whole board in spectacular fashion. Smith then takes us home, referring back to the opening comments, inspired no doubt by his young friend.
"Back in The Chicken Shack," a blues tune Smith wrote for the 1960 album of the same title, adds a Latin element with congas and timbales. The added percussion gives the tune a nice change from a traditional swing format, Ramon Banda and Jose "Joey" DeLeon trading solo passages as well. Smith and DeFrancesco continue their own conversation, alternating solos with the kind of pyrotechnics that only this kind of pairing creates. "I've Got My Mojo Workin'" is portrayed in a funky '70s scheme, to which Smith adds his version of vocals. His uninhibited interpretation is a vote of confidence to all us "shower singers." Paul Bollenback's wah wah and Mel Brown's bass lines color things perfectly.
On "Jones'n for Elvin," stalwart veteran James Moody provides a wonderful solo and Byron Landham, Francesco's regular drummer, gives his version of Elvin's unmistakable triplet feel, a suitable tribute to another fallen master. Finally, "Blues for Bobby C" features the two organs with Banda on drums, proffering interplay and passion that is better left to the ears than this pen.
DeFrancesco wrote this in the liner notes for the CD: "To the master, Jimmy SmithOne of the greatest and most innovative musicians of all time." Enough said!
Visit Joey DeFrancesco
on the web.