The great B3 organ master and conjurer of sound, Doctor Lonnie Smith, has made some great studio recordings, but he'll be the first to tell you that his music needs to be experienced live. The release of his brand new live recording The Healer marks the Doctor's first live recording since his landmark 1970 album Live At Club Mozambique. It showcases the great bandleader reinventing the possibilities of sound along with two young stars - guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jamire Williams. The Healer puts the listener front row center at a wild ride of a show that seamlessly blends jazz, fusion, hip hop, world music, and of course the B3 funk that Doc helped create. It also marks the launch of Pilgrimage Records, the good doctor's new completely artist controlled record label.
Covering prime early recordings from 1956-1960 and one mid-'80s cut, Blue Note's The Best of Jimmy Smith offers up a fine introduction to the trailblazing jazz organist. Smith's Blue Note sessions not only introduced the world to the complex solo possibilities of the Hammond B3 organ, but simultaneously ushered in the soul-jazz era of the '60s, spawning a wealth of fine imitators in the process. Before delving into more commercial terrain on Verve in the late '60s, Smith cut a ton of jam-session dates for Blue Note, often with the help of hard bop luminaries like trumpeter Lee Morgan, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, tenor saxophonists Tina Brooks and Stanley Turrentine, and drummers Art Blakey and Donald Bailey. All are heard here on classic cuts like "The Sermon," "Back at the Chicken Shack," and "The Jumpin' Blues," with Smith regular Turrentine and a young Morgan availing themselves in especially fine form. For his part, Smith eats up the scenery on all the sides here, taking his solo to particularly impressive heights on a fleetly swinging rendition of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home".
Compared to his earlier Blue Note recordings, organist Jimmy Smith's outings for Verve are not as strong from a jazz standpoint. Certainly his renditions of the "Theme from Joy House," "The Cat," and the "Main Title from The Carpetbaggers" are not all that significant. However, this set has some tasteful arrangements for the big band by Lalo Schifrin, and some good playing by the great organist on a variety of other blues-oriented material. Also, the combination of organ with a big band is sometimes quite appealing, making this album worth picking up despite its commercial focus.