VOICES Notes and news on Digital releases
03 OCT 12 CHRIS SLAWECKI
The great Hammond organ players of the 1960s and '70s are often called kings of groove, as if the only thing these artists were was funky (and as if it was easy to "only" lay down a thick and luscious groove). I’ve used the phrase many times myself. But, it overlooks where most of these musicians came from: Authentic and considerable jazz roots. In the early-'60s, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, one such player, recorded four albums for Riverside that sound focused on small ensemble jazz. Open House in the Digital Catalog pairs two of those titles -- part of a quartet date with tenor saxman Houston Person, and sessions by a larger ensemble that featured trumpeter Thad Jones.
Smith diligently builds his jazz foundation from familiar cornerstones, including Cole Porter (a tight and tasty stroll through "I Love You") and "A Little Taste" of Cannonball Adderley's lusty soul-jazz sound. His organ crackles like lightning through "Nica's Dream" (by Horace Silver), while Jones blows his notes clean off their chart, and Smith's solo in "Bennie's Diggin'" rips it up and burns it down. More than once, you might even think you're listening to Count Basie (the easy-rolling "Twixt the Sheets" and "Blues for De-De").
Open House complements Black Coffee, which compiles the other two Riverside titles in the Digital Catalog. If you insist on getting funky (and who doesn't from time to time), Legends of Acid Jazz (Prestige, 1996) pairs two titles Smith recorded with drummer Bernard Purdie.