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The Fantastic Jimmy Smith; At the Organ, Volume 3

Joel Roberts By

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It's often been said that the late Jimmy Smith did the same thing for the Hammond organ that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and J.J. Johnson and Charlie Christian did for their instruments. That is, launch it into the age of modern jazz with a revolutionary approach, forever changing how it would be played. Two remastered reissues give a fascinating glimpse of that revolution in progress.

Jimmy Smith
The Fantastic Jimmy Smith
Empire Masterwerks
2005

The first disc, The Fantastic Jimmy Smith, was recorded from 1953-55 while Smith was a member of a Philadelphia group called the Sonotones, led by a drummer/singer named Don Gardner. It captures some of the organist's earliest sides. The album finds Smith in an embryonic stage, still mimicking the rollicking, block-chord style of his idol, Wild Bill Davis. The tunes covered are mostly standards like "Stranger in Paradise, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love and "Jeepers Creepers, along with a handful of fairly commonplace originals with titles like "Jimmy's Jam, "Jimmy's Swing and "Sonotone Bounce that evoke the blues and jump blues of then-popular stars like Earl Bostic and Big Joe Turner.

While there's nothing earth shattering here, it's solid, jazz-inspired R&B, a snapshot just before Smith's big breakthrough.

Jimmy Smith
At the Organ, Volume 3
Blue Note
2005

That breakthrough was just a few years away, as chronicled on this volume from June, 1956. It's a nearly unrecognizable Smith we hear now: more confident, more daring, more technically advanced. Using the Hammond's foot pedals to give his trio the feeling of a quartet (with a terrific bassist), he creates a thoroughly modern sound that combines elements of blues, funk and bebop never before attempted on his instrument.

Highlights include the bizarre, frog-like effect on the opening "Judo Mambo, some astonishing single-note soloing on "Willow Weep for Me and "Lover Come Back to Me, a blisteringly soulful take on Monk's "Well, You Needn't, and the surprisingly avant-garde conclusion to his Monk tribute "Slightly Monkish.

Fifty years later, these recordings sound amazingly fresh and modern, providing further testimony of how much this legendary jazz master is missed.


Tracks and Personnel

The Fantastic Jimmy Smith

Tracks: Stranger In Paradise, Jimmy's Jam, It's A Sin To Tell A Lie, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, I Had The Craziest Dream, I Heard A Rhapsody, Jeepers Creepers, Jimmy's Swing, Misery, Jughead, Tea For Two Mambo, Sonotone Bounce, Dancing On The Ceiling, I'll Walk Alone, Skokiaan.

Personnel: Jimmy Smith: organ; Al Cass: saxophone; unknown guitar, possibly Thornel Schwartz; Don Gardner: vocals, drums.

At the Organ, Volume 3

Tracks: Judo Mambo; Willow Weep for Me; Lover Come Back to Me; Well You Needn't; Fiddlin' the Minors; Autumn Leaves; I Cover the Waterfront; Jamey; My Funny Valentine; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Slightly Monkish.

Personnel: Jimmy Smith: organ; Thornel Schwartz: guitar; Donald Bailey: drums.

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