Johnny "Hammond" Smith

That Good Feelin'

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A standards-heavy set from 1959, Johnny "Hammond" Smith's That Good Feelin' is indicative of his early style. Recorded in a simple quartet setting with guitarist Thornel Schwartz (best known for his earlier work with Jimmy Smith), bassist George Tucker, and drummer Leo Stevens, all of whom provide understated but effective support -- Schwartz in particular throws in a few concise and swinging solos in the style of early Wes Montgomery -- these seven tracks are surprisingly close to the cool, cerebral style of pianists like Bill Evans or Lennie Tristano, far afield from the funky, blues-based styles of most jazz organists of the time. Part of that feel comes from the song selection, weighted toward ballads like "Autumn Leaves" (a Bill Evans favorite as well), "I'll Remember April," and the evergreen "My Funny Valentine." Smith's playing is typically excellent, though he throws some unexpected curves like a herky-jerky solo in "I'll Remember April" that sounds more like the futuristic whirrs and bleeps of a '50s science-fiction movie soundtrack than a "Brother" Jack McDuff workout. This is good to great stuff, and a welcome change from the soul-jazz clichés that would overtake organ jazz in the '60s. [The 1996 CD reissue of That Good Feelin' starts off with seven tracks originally released as Smith's All Soul LP, also from 1959.]

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