Jimmie Smith – Live in Music City: Jimmie Smith Plays Jimmy Smith (2018)

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Jimmy Smith was an American musician who released several high-performing instrumental albums which made the Hammond organ popular. He forged a link between 1960s and 1970s soul and jazz improvisation and, in 2005, was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award. Already, he has my interest but there is also a Jimmie (with an “ie”) Smith – alive and making music in the U.S. and he happens also to be a great Hammond player.

He has made an album in tribute to the first Jimmy Smith: Live in Music City: Jimmie Smith Plays Jimmy Smith is a live recording, produced by Grammy-nominated producer Bro. Paul Brown. Also of the Waterboys, Brown added his own inputs to the final produced album, as he is an accomplished keyboard player, as well. The album is described by Paul himself as “a live raw Hammond B3 soul-jazz gospel album, and tribute to the late great Jimmy Smith.”

Live in Music City: Jimmie Smith Plays Jimmy Smith features tracks such as “Get Yourself a College Girl,” which is a swinging, soul-infused number highlighting many of the features of the Hammond B3 – including special effects. The theme, which includes a version of what sounds like a cross between “Johnny Goes Marching Home” and “The Animals Went Marching Two by Two,” is horn-infused, jazzy and bluesy at the same time. There is a glorious guitar solo from James DaSilva, followed by a simply beautiful trumpet delivery from Jon-Paul Frappier (principal trumpet and arranger of Denver Pops Orchestra, no less) which is utterly gorgeous. There is also some pretty nifty, thrifty Hammond playing from Jimmie himself.

Another track of note is “The Cat,” which is an arrangement of the title track of the 1964 album released by Jimmy Smith. It’s lively, starting with a mesmeric bass line, some brassy interludes and great drums over which the Hammond flows, ebbs and creates some pretty cool lines of its own. The funk and swing is relentless here, and the energy flows as easy as electricity through wire. The guitar of James DaSilva is wondrous again in his solo work, and Jimmie Smith’s mastery of the Hammond is demonstrated particularly in his flinger-flicking rapid fire solo – and also in his background supporting work. Very ’60s movie-themed in style, but fun and your feet will move.

“Midnight Special” is almost 12-and-a-half minutes of interaction between the Hammond of Jimmie Smith, the guitar, trombone, trumpet and sax. What strikes on this track is the old-school delivery – the sense of a performance and concert show ,rather than musicians gathering in a studio. There are solos from all, including a wonderful sax solo delivered in the style of the arrangement but with a few loose-lipped touches and improvisational inserts which bring the arrangement back up to date. Chris West soars on tenor sax, and is in fine form playing here. The track is almost three minutes longer that Jimmy Smith’s original recording but no one, at least no one in the band, cares or worries.

Jimmie Smith is a pastor and, as such, perhaps recognizes the possibility of the divine in music. He also recognized that Jimmy Smith, a Hammond organ master who was blessed with similar talents to himself – or was it the other way around? Either way, Live in Music City is a tribute from Jimmie Smith to Jimmy Smith. The album is 10 tracks, recorded live at the Rutledge in Nashville in front of a very enthusiastic audience.

I have seen just a few videos of the tracks, but there are a lot more on the album and if the first are heralds of what is to come, this will be an album well worth getting hold of – whether you know Jimmy Smith’s music (or Jimmie Smith’s music), like the original, or are new to the Hammond-infused style. What is striking in the videos is the holding together of the band and the centering around the Hammond organ of Jimmie Smith, yet the readiness given to providing a spotlight to the other musicians present – all of which come into their own at different points.

With stellar players like James DaSilva, Chris West and Jon-Paul Frappier, it’s no wonder Jimmie gives them a place in the sun, but still the overall spotlight is on his Hammond and his playing, whether it is nipping along the back roads or coming to the front in full throttle format, leading the charge of the convoy. Jimmie Smith keeps it together, and it works wonderfully. Live in Music City: Jimmie Smith Plays Jimmy Smith, due on Aug. 10 via Woodward Avenue Records, has promise and potential.


Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Sammy Stein
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