Jimmy Smith - Photo: Getty Images

Jimmy Smith - High Priest of The B-3

Jimmy Smith Quartet – Live in France – 1979 – Past Daily Downbeat

Jimmy Smith - Photo: Getty Images
Jimmy Smith – High Priest of The B-3

Jimmy Smith Quartet – Live At Amphith√©√•tre de l’Institut Catholique – Angers, France – February 13, 1979 – Radio France –

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The legendary Jimmy Smith this weekend – just what the doctored ordered for an extended stay on a desert island. He is joined in this 1979 concert by John Phillips, tenor/alto/soprano saxes and flute – Ray Crawford, guitar and Kenny Dixon, drums. It was all recorded and preserved for posterity by Radio France International on February 13, 1979.

This is from The New York Times on the occasion of his death on February 2005:

Before Jimmy Smith, the electric organ had been nearly a novelty in jazz; it was he who made it an important instrument in the genre and influenced nearly every subsequent notable organist in jazz and rock, including Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Larry Young, Shirley Scott, Al Kooper and Joey DeFrancesco.

By 1955 — which coincidentally was the year Hammond introduced its most popular model, the B-3 — he had an organ trio with a new sound that would thereafter become the model for groups in what became known as “organ rooms,” the urban bars up and down the East Coast specializing in precisely the kind of blues-oriented, swinging, funky music that Mr. Smith epitomized.

In the early 1950’s he worked around Philadelphia, playing rhythm and blues with Don Gardner’s Sonotones. In 1952, or perhaps 1953, he met Wild Bill Davis, the organ player who pioneered the organ-trio format, at a club. Mr. Smith asked him how long it would take to learn the organ; Davis replied that it would take years to learn the pedals alone. (In Mr. Smith’s retelling, the number of years varied between 4 and 15.) Playing piano at night and practicing organ during the day, Mr. Smith studied a chart of the instrument’s 25 foot pedals and claimed that he played fluent walking-bass lines with his feet within three months.

By 1955 he was on his way to making his new organ trio sound pervasive.

Like many other great jazz musicians, Mr. Smith insisted that the key to finding his own sound was through studying musicians who did not play his instrument.

“While others think of the organ as a full orchestra,” he wrote in a short piece for The Hammond Times in 1964, “I think of it as a horn. I’ve always been an admirer of Charlie Parker, and I try to sound like him. I wanted that single-line sound like a trumpet, a tenor or an alto saxophone.”

He made many popular records for Blue Note and Verve, among them “Groovin’ at Small’s Paradise,” “The Cat” (with the arranger Lalo Schifrin), a few records with the guitarist Wes Montgomery and in 1965 his vocal version of “Got My Mojo Workin’,” arranged by Oliver Nelson.

If you missed him the first time around, don’t miss him this time. Jimmy Smith was an important voice and his legacy is laced with milestones. Check him out – and check this gig out.

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