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Jimmy Smith - R.I.P.

Discussion in 'General Jazz Discussions' started by jazzbill, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. jazzbill

    jazzbill Maitre d' Forums Staff Member

    Austin, Texas
    Just got word that organ master Jimmy Smith just passed away this evening. I'm trying to get more info.

  2. Kurt

    Kurt Active Member

    Damn, I feel old when I hear news like this. Rest in peace, Jimmy Smith. As for me, I'll catch a weekend set at Bob and Barbara's, which has featured the B-3 signature sound of Philly, and Jimmy Smith, for as long as I've lived in this town.
  3. Bluetrain

    Bluetrain Active Member

    jacksonville, fl
    No one I can think of dominated their instrument for decades the way Jimmy did. he was amazing. I just got Cool Blues last week, never heard it before and its has quickly become one of my favorite JS albums. He really lights it up. he leaves us some great, great jazz.
  4. bobb

    bobb New Member

    Jimmy was the king of the B3. I saw his trio countless
    times in Philly over the years and they always blew me
    away. With Thornel Schwartz (g.) and Donald Duck (dr.),
    the unending swing was simply overpowering. I saw him
    once at an all star concert in Philly's cavernous Convention Hall along with Miles' band which at that moment had Bobby Jaspar on tenor subbing for Trane. It
    was the fall of 1957. No contest. Jimmy won hands down.
  5. J. Robert Bragonier

    J. Robert Bragonier Maitre d' Forums Staff Member

    He was elected an NEA Jazz Master at the IAJE Convention here in Long Beach just before I left on vacation, and he was in good humor, health and spirits at that time. RIP, Jimmy...
  6. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Ironically, yesterday was the release date of Legacy-Jimmy Smith with Joey DeFrancesco on Concord, 75 minutes of twin B-3s.

  7. jazzbill

    jazzbill Maitre d' Forums Staff Member

    Austin, Texas
    Here's an obit from Reuters:

    Jazz Organ Pioneer Jimmy Smith Dies

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Organist Jimmy Smith, who helped change the sound of jazz by almost single-handedly introducing the soulful electric riffs of the Hammond B-3 organ, has died at age 79 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his record label said on Wednesday.

    A spokeswoman for the Concord record label said Smith died of natural causes on Tuesday.

    Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 8, 1925, Smith ruled the Hammond B-3 in the 1950s and 1960s and blended jazz, blues, R&B, bebop and even gospel into an exciting stew that became known as "soul jazz" -- an idiom that produced many imitators, followers and fans.

    "Anyone who plays the organ is a direct descendant of Jimmy Smith. It's like Adam and Eve -- you always remind someone of Jimmy Smith," jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco said in an interview with Reuters last year.

    "He was the big pioneer, not only of the organ but musically. He was doing things that (John) Coltrane did in the '60s, but he did them back in '56 and '57," he added.

    Paired with jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery in the 1960s, Smith first made his mark as a soloist on Blue Note Records where, as one critic noted, he turned the Hammond B-3 organ "into a down and dirty orchestra."

    Among his best known albums on Blue Note were "The Sermon!" "Back at the Chicken Shack," "Midnight Special," "Home Cookin'," and "Prayer Meetin'."

    Critic Gene Seymour, writing in the "Oxford Companion to Jazz," said, "Though he was not the first player to bring the electric organ to jazz, Smith gave the instrument the expressive power that Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker gave their respective saxophones."

    The pipe organ had been used in jazz in the 1930s by such famous players as Fats Waller but it was obviously too big and too heavy to be lugged into jazz clubs. Smith was able to take his electric B-3 on the road and created a jazz trio of organ, drums and either guitar or saxophone.

    Smith himself provided the bass lines by using the organ's foot pedals.


    Smith initially learned piano at home and then went on to study bass at music schools in Philadelphia.

    He began playing the Hammond organ in 1951, and soon wound up playing in some of New York's most famous clubs, including Cafe Bohemia and Birdland.

    Smith's Blue Note sessions -- from his 1956 "New Sounds on the Organ" to 1963 when he left the label -- included work with some of the major players of the day, including Kenny Burrell, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Ike Quebec and Stanley Turrentine.

    On Verve from 1963 to 1972, he played with Montgomery and in big bands conducted or arranged by Oliver Nelson.

    Blue Note co-founder Francis Wolff once recalled the night he and his partner, Alfred Lion, first encountered Smith:

    "I first heard Jimmy at Small's Paradise in January of 1956. It was his first gig in New York. He was a stunning sight. A man in convulsions, face contorted, crouched over in apparent agony, his fingers flying, his foot dancing over the pedals. The air was filled with waves of sound I had never heard before. The noise was shattering. A few people sat around, puzzled, but impressed.

    "He came off the stand, smiling, the sweat dripping all over him. 'So what do you think?' 'Yeah!' I said. That's all I could say. Alfred Lion had already made up his mind. When he heard a good thing -- that was enough."

  8. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Jimmy Smith, other activities

    I have several Jimmy Smith albums. Let me add that in the early '50s, before he made his mark, Smith was house organist for Bruce Records, a small NYC independent, and addition to making records of his own, backed up the R&B acts on the label. (He at the time was part of a trio called the Sonotones). If you hear the Harptones' classics "A Sunday Kind of Love" and "My Memories of You," you're also hearing Jimmy Smith.

    Raanan G.
  9. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Thanks for the specifics. I always knew that the musicians accompanying the RnB harmony groups of the early to mid 50s
    were jazz players, in addition to the most visable star turns (the
    tenor sax break from Jimmy Wright, Sam The Man Taylor, Big Al
    Sears). I'm pretty sure that the guitarist featured on the break
    of the 1954 Gee-The Crows was Kenny Burrell. If I'm not mistaken the Harptones made two recordings of "Sunday" and "Memories" so
    that the organ only appears on one of the recordings. Did Bruce label
    ever release an LP? If my memories are correct, it was named for
    the son of one of the more prominent label owners of the day.

  10. bobb

    bobb New Member

    How about Clifford Brown working with Chris Powell and
    the Blue Flames in the early 50's? I was working in the
    bar band at the Erie Social Club in Northeast Philly in
    the fall of '52 and Powell's group with Brownie were in
    the main stage. During intermission Clifford would sometimes hide in the men's room. He didn't want to talk
    to anyone about a gig he was doing just for the bread.
  11. Kurt

    Kurt Active Member

    For years after Jimmy Smith hit it big, there were several budget LPs floating around with early Jimmy Smith material. I recall one with the Wilson Llewes trio, who I believe was a Philly drummer. (bobb - can you confirm?) No liner notes or personnel listing, of course.

    So what are the three Smith discs you'd take with you to that proverbial desert island? Here are three that capture his career pretty well:

    Jimmy Smith at the Organ, volume 2 (Blue Note) (the early, sensational JS, with Lou Donaldson on alto and Kenny Burrell on guitar. Contains "The Duel", a duet with Art Blakey

    Bluesmith (Verve) - this one features Teddy Edwards and Ray Crawford and - surprise - Leroy Vinnegar on bass. No foot pedals!

    Prayer Meeting (Blue Note) - the classic group with Stanley Turrentine

    For a taste of the later, funker JS, I'd also try to sneak in Root Down! Jimmy Smith Live (Verve), which has been playing in my car since Jimmy passed.
  12. bobb

    bobb New Member

    Kurt, don't know him.

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