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".
Jimmy Smith brought the Hammond organ into hard bop and jazz in the 1950s, and his piano-fast solo runs on the instrument have never been equaled. This warm set from Blue Note Records, the label where Smith built most of his impressive legacy, selects eight of his performances for the label, including a 20-minute (and ten second) version of "The Sermon," the bouncing "Back at the Chicken Shack," and a fun romp through "See See Rider," among other delights, making this a quick introduction to the peak creative era of this one-of-a-kind jazz artist's long career.
Erik Söderlind is a young man in no particular hurry. Not yet 30, he plays jazz guitar with supreme assurance, and on his debut album Twist For Jimmy Smith, he has put together a lovely, leisurely paced, always swinging collection of standards and originals that deserves worldwide recognition. Of course, he's unlikely to get it. We live in a world obsessed with image, a world that all too often mistakes image for the real thing. Should Sweden's Söderlind be passed over, it's the world's loss. Here he teams up with two other extremely talented local musicians, organist Kjell Öhman and reed man Magnus Lindgren to make an album that brooks repeated listening. Söderlind plays in a line stemming from Charlie Christian and continuing through Wes Montgomery and George Benson—and that's George Benson when John Hammond billed him "The Most Exciting New Guitarist On The Jazz Scene Today." Before someone discovered he could sing, dressed him in glittery suits and stuck him on the cabaret circuit. Twist For Jimmy Smith provides a glimpse of what jazz was all about in those far off days; though this album is not about nostalgia. It's about the real thing, what Söderlind, on the sleeve calls "the joy of making music" and communicating that joy.
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.
These sessions live at Art D'Lugoff's Village Gate night club in Greenwich Village on May 31, 1963 were at one point previously unreleased, eventually issued by the short-lived Metro subsidiary of MGM on vinyl sometime after being recorded. The session is barely over 30 minutes, the sound is a bit thin (but not to its detriment), but Smith's playing is peerless as always, and his band with guitarist Quentin Warren and young drummer Billy Hart may be a curiosity for some. Warren is not the best or most adept plectrist Smith had employed, but gets the job done in a quiet, unassuming manner…