Johnny "Hammond" Smith

Ebb Tide

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Smith came right out and declared it in the liner notes: "I'm thinking more commercially and I don't care what the critics say." That meant covering soul hits like "Knock on Wood," "Stand By Me," and "The 'In' Crowd," presumably, in addition to throwing in standards like the title cut and "Summertime," as well as three Smith originals. So what does this critic say? Good job, Johnny! This is superior organ-soul-jazz with a feistier edge than much of the genre, evident right from the opening "The Sin-In," which has riffs worthy of a TV detective show and some fine stuttering keys from the leader. The feistiness in this combo is in large part down to drummer John Harris, who really bashes it out; on "Knock on Wood," for instance, he sounds rather more like a rock drummer than a jazz one. Prestige stalwart Houston Person is on hand with tenor sax, while Virgil Jones' trumpet lends the arrangements some good complementary color. In some respects this is more of the same as far as mid- to late-'60s soul-jazz goes, particularly in repertoire ("Summertime" certainly isn't the most imaginative cover choice), but there's a brash energy that makes it a cut or two above the norm for the genre. In 2000, this and a June 1968 session, Nasty, were combined onto one compact disc titled The Soulful Blues.

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