Johnny "Hammond" Smith

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On this quartet session, Johnny "Hammond" Smith was accompanied by a young John Abercrombie on guitar, Grady Tate on drums, and Prestige mainstay Houston Person on tenor sax. With the exception of "Unchained Melody," the musicians gave the tunes space, with all of the other five tracks clocking in at about seven to nine minutes. Yeah, in a sense it's run-of-the-mill as far as Prestige late-'60s soul-jazz goes: quite fine grooves, a dependable yet somewhat predictable house sound, and a reliance upon cover versions for much of the material (two-thirds of the songs, in this case). It's solidly executed, though, in a lean fashion that, to its credit, runs counter to the more excessive arrangements that were creeping into soul-jazz around this time. Smith hits a comely slow-burn groove on his version of Horace Silver's classic "Song for My Father," does a surprisingly swaggering and infectious job with the overdone "Unchained Melody," and gets down into his funkiest and bluesiest mode on the title cut, a nine-minute original composition. In 2000, this and a March 1967 session, Ebb Tide, were combined onto one compact disc titled The Soulful Blues.

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