Johnny Smith was an in-demand guitarist during the 1950s, recording extensively for the Roost label and having a hit with "Moonlight in Vermont." But since moving to Colorado during the 1960s, he has recorded only sporadically. These 1967 sessions for Verve feature the guitarist with a terrific rhythm section consisting of pianist Hank Jones, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Don Lamond, playing a mix of standards and a few pop songs of the mid-'60s. Smith's clean, always swinging style is well matched by the tasteful Hank Jones (a master of accompaniment in any situation). The wild arrangement of "My Favorite Things" doesn't follow the typical Coltrane-inspired modal path; instead, the quartet delivers a cooking performance that even sounds like an Irish jig at one point. Smith's lyrical takes of bossa nova favorites like "Manha de Carnaval" and "The Girl from Ipanema" have aged very well. Smith penned words and music to the loping country-flavored ballad "Colorado," represented by his original solo version and the later version with a vocal added by Jimmy Atkins. Smith is heard unaccompanied for a thoughtful interpretation of the Beatles' "Yesterday" and the traditional favorite "Shenandoah," switching to acoustic guitar for an intricate rendition of "Golden Earrings." Last available as a 1997 CD reissue in the Verve Elite Edition limited-edition series, this long unavailable CD will be very tough to acquire, as only 7,500 or so were manufactured.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden