Jimmy Smith

Hobo Flats

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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett

Playing piano-style single-note lines on his Hammond B-3 organ, Jimmy Smith revolutionized the use of the instrument in a jazz combo setting in the mid-'50s and early '60s with his recordings for Blue Note Records. After he moved to Verve Records, though, he began working in more big-band settings, experimenting a bit, although he was always the same Jimmy Smith whose rapid runs on the B-3 careened, stuttered, glided, and flashed all over the place at a frequently breathless pace. This set, recorded in 1963 in New York City, finds him working with arranger and conductor Oliver Nelson in a combined orchestral and big-band setting and what strikes first, aside from the movie soundtrack feel of Nelson's arrangements, is how varied the source material is, ranging from a huge make-over of Gus Cannon's old jug band tune "Walk Right In" to the Latin lilt of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Meditation," the funky hard bop of Horace Silver's "The Preacher," and the relatively restrained country prettiness of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You." Smith bubbles and bounces through all of it at the B-3 while Nelson proceeds to fill every available corner with huge, sweeping orchestral washes and crescendos. The clear highlight, though, is the lead and title track, "Hobo Flats," which moves at a languid but wonderfully funky pace and establishes a groove as wide as the Mississippi River. Smith arguably was at his best in small combos, and at times he gets overwhelmed here by the big cinematic arrangements, but there's plenty to like with this set, even if it's a bit on the atypical side for Smith. It works well more than it doesn't.

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