Part of Blue Note's Music for Lovers series -- although points should be taken off for the lousy covers -- these nine cuts show a different side of the wild, inventive, and funky soul-jazz organist Jimmy Smith. These ballads were recorded between 1958 and 1960 (with one exception, "Little Girl Blue," taped in 1957), all of them standards. Smith is in fine company on these sides. Some of the other players include Kenny Burrell, Ray Crawford, Blue Mitchell, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Jackie McLean, and Ike Quebec. Smith's sensitive side is revealed in readings of "Lover Man," "Willow Weep for Me," "Angel Eyes," "My One and Only Love," and "It Could Happen to You." His right hand floats along the melodies of these tunes, as his tremendous left offers extended chords, coloring and shaping the lyric lines, adding depth and color to them. His accompanists, too, have more of a chance to engage him in these moments, underscoring and emphasizing the melodic invention, filling the spaces and picking up on his cues. But mostly, these are just beautiful songs interpreted by a master, someone who understands their little mysteries from the inside out while adding to them creatively. For the buck, this is as nice a Smith ballads collection as you are likely to find.
Music for Lovers Review
by Thom Jurek