Johnny "Hammond" Smith

Opus de Funk

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While organist Johnny "Hammond" Smith never attained the status of Jimmy Smith, he nonetheless fronted first-rate bands and accumulated a fine discography. Recorded in 1961, Opus de Funk brings together two Smith albums in one package, Stimulation and Opus de Funk. Since the same band -- vibraphonist Freddie McCoy, guitarist Eddie McFadden, bassist Wendell Marshall, and drummer Leo Stevens -- played on both sets, and since both albums aren't very long by contemporary standards, the pair fit snuggly on the same CD. The really unusual element here is the presence of McCoy, because one doesn't usually associate vibes with jazz organ combos. The vibes work, however, and give the resonance of Smith's organ a lighter counterpoint that brightens up the overall sound. The band delivers fine versions of familiar pieces -- "Cry Me a River," "Autumn Leaves," and "Gone With the Wind" -- alongside newer pieces like "Ribs an' Chips" and "Que Pasa?" With a couple of exceptions, this snappy unit likes to keep things tight, and seldom extends a piece for over five minutes. The one big exception is Smith's "Ribs an' Chips," a breezy eight-minute bit of blues with fine solos by McFadden and McCoy. Opus de Funk is a welcome reissue and will be greeted warmly by jazz organ fans.

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