All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Jimmy Smith: Me and Mr. Johnson

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Back in the day, when you said organ, you were talking about one of two things: a part of the body or the Hammond B-3. Jazz organ masters like Larry Young and Jimmy Smith did not play the Minimoog or the Casio Tectronic, they played the B-3. Nowadays the kids are picking up a new keyboard a week, whatever the latest gadget may be, but they still can't play the original organ from 1955.

Philadelphia-bred organ master Jimmy Smith is best known for his soulful, swinging B-3 records from the '50s and '60s, and his influence on contemporary B-3 players like Joey DeFrancesco and Tony Monaco is huge. But very few people know that Smith had a second instrument, which he kept tucked away in a large back closet: an custom organ known as a Mr. Johnson.

The Johnson Organ Company started out making B-3 ripoffs, but after Hammond sued, it went in another direction. During the '50s the company's most popular model, the Mr. Johnson, was popular among experimental underground organists who felt that the mainstream was too restrictive. It came in many colors, shapes and sizes, but always featured a large silver "J" at the end. Jimmy Smith saw his first Mr. Johnson at his cousin Sid's house, and that very afternoon he knew he had to have one of his own, so he spent all his beer money and bought a custom model.

Me and Mr. Johnson collects six unreleased tracks taken from archival recordings that Sid finally made available last year, five decades after they were made. Jimmy Smith plays standards and blues pieces, emphasizing bawdy and off-color topics. Everyone who's heard Smith knows he had a magical touch, and to hear him touch his Johnson with this kind of fervent intensity adds a whole new dimension to funky numbers like "Rough and Tough" and spirituals like "Body and Soul."

They say Jimmy Smith was the greatest man who ever played an organ, but until you've heard him play his jet black stretch Johnson—touch and love every note, even add brief ecstatic vocals here and there—you'll never know the meaning of the word.

Track Listing: Body and Soul; Shake it Side to Side; Rough and Tough; Bemsha Swing; Organ Grinder Blues; Me and Mr. Johnson.

Personnel: Jimmy Smith: Johnson organ; Richard Johnson: Johnson organ (5,6).

Title: Me and Mr. Johnson | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Johnson & Johnson

Gotcha! April Fools!


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read From Silence to Somewhere CD/LP/Track Review
From Silence to Somewhere
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Never Bet The Devil Your Head CD/LP/Track Review
Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 21, 2018
Read The Questions CD/LP/Track Review
The Questions
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Meerkat Parade CD/LP/Track Review
Meerkat Parade
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2018
Read "I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert" CD/LP/Track Review I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert
by Jerome Wilson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "The Wild" CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Live at the High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "To the Bone" CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings" CD/LP/Track Review The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings
by Doug Collette
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Introducing...Rubén González" CD/LP/Track Review Introducing...Rubén González
by James Nadal
Published: June 16, 2017