Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

499

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

April fools!


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Copenhagen Live 1964 CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Somewhere Glimmer CD/LP/Track Review Somewhere Glimmer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "Beloved" CD/LP/Track Review Beloved
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 10, 2017
Read "The Heart Of Infinite Change" CD/LP/Track Review The Heart Of Infinite Change
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 28, 2017
Read "Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations" CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Poetry from the Future" CD/LP/Track Review Poetry from the Future
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 5, 2017
Read "My Iris" CD/LP/Track Review My Iris
by Phil Barnes
Published: April 12, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!