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Jimmy Smith: Root Down

David Adler By

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Much of the music on Jimmy Smith’s Root Down seems tailor-made for sampling by today’s hip-hop and electronica artists. Small wonder that the Beastie Boys had a hit in 1994 with their rap version of the title track. On this 1972 reissue, three of the album’s original tracks are restored to their full, unedited length and a sluggish alternate take of "Root Down (and Get It)" is also included.

Although this was supposed to be Smith’s foray into hard-edged funk, the organ master’s rootedness in the blues is everywhere apparent: "Root Down" is actually a 32-bar blues with a polyrhythmic bridge, and the hyped-up, 70s-to-the-core groove vehicles "Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow" and "Slow Down Sagg" share comparable blues-based structures. A smoking version of Avery Parrish’s "After Hours" showcases Smith in a more traditional slow-blues mode. And covers of Al Green’s "Let’s Stay Together" and Peter Chase’s "For Everyone Under the Sun" take the album into more laid-back, pop-soul territory.

Smith’s organ work is smooth and fiery in equal proportion. Arthur Adams plays burning, overdriven guitar solos and picture-perfect wah-wah rhythm parts. Bassist Wilton Felder (of the Jazz Crusaders), drummer Paul Humphrey, and percussionist Buck Clarke make up the formidable rhythm section, laying down the grooves that make the record a masterpiece of 70s instrumental funk.


Track Listing: 1. Sagg Shootin

Personnel: Jimmy Smith, organ; Steve Williams, harmonica (track 3); Arthur Adams, guitar; Wilton Felder, bass; Buck Clarke, congas, percussion; Paul Humphrey, drums

Title: Root Down | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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