Dr. Lonnie Smith Too Damn Hot! Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Latest from the Hammond organ maestro mixes funk, soul-jazz and R&B grooves in a new...

Greg Boraman 2005

The sound of soulful, swinging black music on the Hammond Organ actually pre-dates the advent of Rock & Roll by over a decade. So it's not surprising that after leading the cutting edge within soul jazz & hard bop, very little new ground has been broken since the1960s and 70s. That is a situation which has now changed.

Since the death of original Hammond innovator Jimmy Smith early in 2005, Dr Lonnie Smithremains one of the few surviving US jazz organists who can lay claim to pushing forward the boundaries of this long lived style. But with this latest album he connects the tradition with the contemporary with great aplomb - and in the case of the first track 'Norleans', a killer gumbo groove to boot.

'Too Damn Hot' may just be the best jazz organ record of the last 30 years. Young Hammond upstart Joey De Francesco has the bigger profile, sponsorship & the flashier technique - but it is the good Doctor Smith who can claim to be the current innovator, tastemaker and genuine link between past and present.

Dr Smith has stripped down the occasionally overbearing jazz and blues organ idiom to a more sparse Jimmy McGriff style that lets the pulse of his organ bass playing push the music with a groove that is as stark as it is infectious. Lonnie equips his quartet with the dynamics of abig band while retaining the intimacy of a small group.

As adept at this as he is, Smith also then updates the classic jazz organ format with a fresh attitude - typified by the tracks "Your Mama's Got a Complex" and "Track 9".The latter hints at what might have happened if Jimmy Smith had played with The Beastie Boys rather than just being heavily sampled by them.

This release shows that Lonnie Smith is still at the top of his game. His blues are powerful without being mawkish, his jazz adept and tasteful, his funk chops always an example to others. It might be an old bottle - but contains some fresh new jazz juice!

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