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Dr. Lonnie Smith: Rise Up!

John Barron By

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Rise Up! is Dr. Lonnie Smith's third release for Palmetto Records and a welcome addition to the organist's rich recorded legacy. Since bursting onto the scene as a member of George Benson's quartet in the 1960s, the Buffalo native has been an unrelenting force on the Hammond B3. Joined here by alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Herlin Riley, Smith offers up a listener-friendly set of originals and pop covers.

Smith is known for dispensing heavy doses of soulful grease and this record does not disappoint. Rise Up! is a deep-in-the-groove session with enough funk to keep the party rolling into the wee hours. Smith's compositions have always been riff-heavy with clever vamp sections—the kind that peak the interest of musicians and make the toe-tapping public smile—and the batch of originals on this disc stay true to form.

Tunes like "Matterpat," "Dapper Dan" and "Voodoo Doll" contain simplified themes, hypnotic grooves and soulful soloing courtesy of Smith, Bernstein and Harrison. What stands out—and perhaps separates Smith from the slew of jazz organists who seem to be everywhere these days—is the orchestral approach Smith brings to his instrument. With five decades of experience, Smith seems to have honed-in on all of the instruments sweet spots, manipulating the draw bars and kicking things up a notch at just the right moment. The swirling intensity he builds on The Stylistics' R&B staple "People Make The World Go Round" is otherworldly.

The Turbanator delivers a hard-driving version of The Beatles' "Come Together," with Smith groaning along to the melody and Drummer Riley pounding out a tireless backbeat. Other stand-out moments include a spirited reworking of the late organist Larry Young's "Tyrone"—the original 3/4 blues is transformed into a rousing second-line romp—and a dark-hued version of The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams."

Bernstein's blues-inflected guitar lines on "And The World Weeps" and "People Make The World Go Round" are at once punchy and graceful with a hint of angularity. Harrison's gospel lyricism on Smith's "Pilgrimage" and biting alto at the end of "Come Together" are disc highlights.

For as predictable as this music may be it succeeds at being energizing, optimistic and downright infectious.

Track Listing: A Matterapat; Come Together; Pilgrimage; Dapper Dan; And The World Weeps; People Make The World Go Round; Tyrone; Sweet Dreams; Voodoo Doll.

Personnel: Dr. Lonnie Smith: Hammond organ, vocals; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Donald Harrison: alto saxophone; Herlin Riley: drums; Jo Lawry: vocals (5); James Shipp: percussion (2, 3, 4, 6, 9); Matt Balitsaris: guitar (1, 2, 6, 8).

Title: Rise Up! | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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