Monday, April 09, 2007

JIMMY SMITH





Nowadays organic products can be found in all shops that are biological and non but just as out bodies need to be nourished by genuine products of quality our minds are also ever more in need of sound culture. Many times in the past I have spoken to you about an instrument that made history in the music of Soul, Jazz, Blues, R’n’B and never like today has it been used, sampled and sought after. Many times I have talked about who used it, who sought it out and who sampled it but I have only slightly mentioned who made it indispensable, innovative and a cult object. Jimmy Smith, born in December 1928 and sadly passed away just a few months ago started to play the Piano with his father in the 1940’s. In 1947, after leaving school early, he decided to enlist at the Ornstein School Of Music where he learned Bass and studied deeper the Piano. Smith was noticed through his knack of playing pieces by Brahms, Minuet’s and small Waltzes just through his hearing as he had never learned to read sheet music, this carried on until the teachers became very surprised indeed. After leaving the school and playing Bump Piano in an orchestra of Philadelphia, in 1951 he united with Don Gardner’s Sonotones playing R’n’B Piano. In this situation Jimmy didn’t feel completely at home and it was after he heard at the Harlem Club the great Wild Bill Davies known as ‘the king of the Hammond’ in that period that he decided to start experimenting with this new instrument… Smith borrowed heavily from the style of Bill Doggett from whom he had understood that it was better to use the Organ pedals with your heal because using the front of the foot would tire you very quickly whilst the heal offered more duration and resistance. After closing himself for a long time in his basement Smith came out with a new sound, ready to experiment. A new Jazz story was about to begin. On his new B3 model Smith used the first three drawbars and the percussion, cutting the tremolo, starting to play horn lines with the right hand after being inspired by musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Arnett Cobb and Don Byas, it was 1955. Smith constructed his Organ solos through inspirations of horn solos: the first and last four drawbars and tremolo on! Jimmy Smith created his first Organ Jazz Trio and completely changed the sound of the moment. In 1956 he began recording for Blue Note until almost 1963 with a total of almost 30 LP’s, he then moved over to Verve until 1972 when he moved onto Elektra, Decca, Mercury, Milestone, Somethin’ Else, Mojo, Metro, Polygram right up to 2004 when he came out with his very last album “Blues Dot Com” that he recorded for Verve Blue Thumb in Los Angeles with the help of musicians of the calibre of BB King, Taj Mahal, Etta James, Dr John, Harvey Mason and others. Getting back to his sound we could say that it wandered greatly amongst the Jazz ambient, fro orchestral trio right up to Funky Jazz in the mid seventies whilst still maintaining his unmistakable sound that even today inspires many organ players. To get a good idea of his sound there are not enough pages in this magazine, I will however try and break down to the minimum some serious indications without having you go out and get some of those usual compilations. From the Blue Note period I recommend “Groovin’ At Small’Paradise” from 1957, “Home Cookin’” from 1958 and “Crazy Baby” from 1960. Then on Verve, probably the label that made him most famous, I would recommend the classic “The Cat” from 1964, “Got My Mojo Working” from 1965, “Organ Grinder Swing” also from 1965 and “Root Down” from 1972 where you can hear that typical Starsky & Hutch type Funky Jazz Organ. A great album that you will rarely see amongst the official discography of Smith and one that I would very strongly recommend is “Unfinished Business” from 1978 on Mercury. I hope that I have pleased and ‘organ-ized’ you for a new search for good vinyl. Jimmy , rest in peace.

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