Jimmy Smith at the Organ, Vol. 2
Jimmy Smith’s virtuosic Hammond organ playing was even more stunning on his early albums, such as this 1957 recording, and he was also a lot more adventurous. There are four tracks, featuring various combinations of altoist Lou Donaldson, guitarists Kenny Burrell and Eddie McFadden, and drummers Art Blakey and Donald Bailey: a slow blues, a medium blues, a fast blues, and ‘The Duel’. The blues are all classics of the idiom, and the odd track out, an almost free-form improvised duet played by Smith and Blakey, is very odd indeed. Neither of these players are remotely associated with the avant-garde, of course, but ‘The Duel’ nevertheless explores all sorts of strange sonic areas, and is strongly reminiscent of Sun Ra in places!
Plays the Blues
I once heard a radio announcer describe Jimmy Smith’s Hammond organ as sounding like car battery acid cutting through butter on a cold night; I guess that’s about right! This compilation finds him in a variety of settings, mainly playing the groove jazz he is best known for with drums, guitar and tenor, but also fronting a big-band, playing almost conventional non-jazz blues, and singing. The highlights are ‘T-bone steak’ and ‘Grabbin’ Hold’; throwaway themes for formulaic organ-jazz, but Smith invented the formula and these tracks are as good as it gets, with his dazzling virtuosity fully engaged as he shows the butter no mercy.