One Track Mind: Dr. Lonnie Smith, "People Make The World Go Round" (2009)

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Last month Dr. Lonnie Smith released Rise Up!, continuing one of the best undertold stories in jazz today: this authentic legend of the Hammond B-3 organ has been enjoying a Joe Henderson-styled late-career resurgence during the Aughts. I used to really love the stuff he did in the Sixties, especially those Blue Notes he did as a sideman for Lou Donaldson, and I got a pretty decent CD of his from the Nineties that featured John Abercrombie. I also knew that somewhere down the line he’d added “Dr.” to his name and a turban on his head. More importantly, I knew that this cat was for real.

And still, I didn’t acquire his latest right away, although one of our readers, the knowledgeable and gentlemanly Bill from Buffalo, had strongly urged me to pick it up. It was still on my to-do list until I happened upon the latest jazz chart that placed Rise Up! right at the top. That finally prodded me to get it off the list and on my speakers, to see what the fuss is all about.

And you know what? Bill from Buffalo was spot on correct…and so is that chart. Rise Up! really is all that. It’s got some righteous sax from Donald Harrison, the beautifully soulful guitar of Peter Bernsteain, and most of all, the inspiring and incomparable organ of Smith.

I just got this the other day, so I’m not ready to give it the full Something Else! review treatment, but I’ll go ahead and rave one about one choice cut, the old Stylistics hit “People Make The World Go Round.”

Now, it’s no secret that I love the song “People Make The World Go Round,” hell, I told that to the whole world that a year ago. I like it so much I even enjoyed a smooth jazz version I once heard. That’s real love, ladies and gents. But the Good Doctor takes total possession of this tune, bear hugging the beautiful melody it with a loping, funky midtempo groove. He must know it’s a good groove, because it goes on for nearly eleven minutes (by far the longest track on the album) but it doesn’t ever get boring. Harrison’s alto sax is wonderfully lyrical and coy, especially when he jousts a bit with Smith, while Bernstein’s guitar lines are thoughtful, warm and efficient.

But when Dr. Smith makes his testimony in an extended solo, he’s putting his bloody insides into it; you know it because the grunts and the vocalizing are audible. His old-school rumbles and skittering excursions across the keys is enough to scare off nearly the entire newer generation of organs players back to the piano.

They don’t make songs like that anymore and they don’t play songs like that anymore, either. Scratch the second part, Dr. Lonnie Smith still does.

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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