Dr. Lonnie Smith

Afro Blue

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After a long hiatus from the record shelves, the turbaned Dr. Lonnie Smith -- along with guitarist John Abercrombie and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith -- sets his sights upon John Coltrane, turning in five 'Trane tunes plus Mongo Santamaria's "Afro-Blue" and a grooving Smith tribute, "Traces of Trane." The propulsive title track is mostly dominated by Abercrombie, while "Impressions" continues the driving pace as Lonnie sprays Hammond B-3 organ notes all over the place with constant brief call-and-response dialogues with himself. Another highlight is one of the two breathers, the aptly named "Lonnie's Lament," which has a nice haunting lilt. Carelessly left off the label and booklet copy -- but embedded in your CD anyway -- is any mention of a 12-minute workout on "Greensleeves" in the push-pull, modal Coltrane manner, with a strong hint of Jimmy Smith. Abercrombie usually plays in his veiled, out-of-tempo manner, while "Smitty" is a volatile, hyperkinetic workhorse most of the time, offering a complex individualistic challenge to the Elvin Jones standard.

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