Johnny "Hammond" Smith

Gettin' the Message

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Organist Johnny "Hammond" Smith's fourth album as a leader, 1961's Gettin' the Message, pairs him with vibraphonist Lem Winchester; Smith and Winchester recorded together fairly often around this period, and the rather unique combination of mellow vibes (an instrument most often associated with cool jazz and Milt Jackson's dignified work with the Modern Jazz Quartet) and funky organ (then rising in popularity, along with what would soon be called soul-jazz) is an interesting blend of styles. The two trade solos in front of a standard hard bop rhythm section that hogs little of the listener's attention, but unfortunately never rises much beyond a mild simmer. While this is fine for tunes like the mellow opener, "Dementia," songs like "Lid Flippin'" and even that hoary old "Swanee River" sound like they could stand to be goosed along a bit; there's a big difference between cool and cold. Aside from that flaw, however, this is a solidly entertaining and texturally intriguing album.

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