Jimmy Smith

The Incredible Jimmy Smith at the Organ

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Jimmy Smith single-handedly reinvented the Hammond organ in a modern jazz setting, and given the many Hammond players who have followed in his wake, most of them working off of the same template that Smith established way back in the early 1950s, it is easy to forget how amazingly brilliant he was on his chosen instrument, as innovative in his own way as Charlie Parker was on sax or Thelonious Monk on piano. Although he is chiefly known for his soul-jazz blues trios, Smith had a wider musical palette than that, as this fine reissue (with four bonus tracks), originally released by Blue Note in 1956, makes clear. With Smith leading on organ (he adds bass with the foot pedals, as well), Thornel Schwartz on electric guitar, and Donald Bailey on drums, the set kicks off with the Bud Powell-like "Judo Mambo," which bubbles and percolates with joyous abandonment, driven by Smith's bustling organ runs and the odd frog noises he somehow manages to find among the stops. A leisurely and elegant "Willow Weep for Me" follows, gradually drifting into a deliberate atonal fade. A version of Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't" is revelatory, retaining the original composition's skewed, angular phrasing but adding in a thick, heavy Delta feel that makes the overall tone of the piece seem a little less anxious. Smith's own homage to Monk, "Slightly Monkish," is included here as one of the bonus tracks. Again, it's easy to forget how innovative Smith actually was when he burst on the jazz scene in the mid-'50s. He established the Hammond organ as a modern jazz instrument, wrote the book on organ trios, not to mention soul-jazz (and its edgy young cousin, acid jazz) as well as paving the road that brought jazz to the edge of funk. All of this is pre-shadowed on this early Blue Note recording, which makes available in an expanded version one of his most energetic and varied albums.

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