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There are a number of fine jazz organ players working today, but as one of the few remaining active veterans who started back in the 1960s, Dr. Lonnie Smith brings an appealingly authentic vibe whenever he sits down at the bench. Smith has played St. Louis several times in recent years, and he'll be back next week to perform from Wednesday, February 1 through Saturday, February 4 at Jazz at the Bistro.
Smith originally is from the Buffalo, NY, area, and first became widely known to jazz fans while working with guitar George Benson's band. Later, he established his reputation as a leader with a series of recordings for Blue Note, and has remained active ever since, touring or recording with musicians such as Grover Washington, Jr., Ron Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, and frequent collaborator Lou Donaldson as well as leading his own groups.
Today we've got several examples of the good Doctor demonstrating his techniques, starting up above with a version of The Whip" recorded in 2007 in Amsterdam with a group of Dutch musicians.
Down below is Frame For The Blues," recorded in June, 2011 in Szombathely, Hungary with Smith's current touring partners, guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jamire Williams. Next, it's Smith, guitarist Russell Malone and drummer Herlin Riley in 2009 at The Iridium in NYC, dipping into the pop-rock songbook with an idiosyncratic take on Eurythmics' 1980s hit Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This."
Below that, the Dr. is teamed with Riley, guitarist Peter Bernstein and saxophonist Donald Harrison for another somewhat unlikely tune, a funked-up version of the Beatles' Come Together" recorded at NYC's Jazz Standard. Finally, in a video from 2010, Smith walks a Dutch announcer though the basics of Hammond B-3 operations before playing And The World Weeps" with drummer Victor de Boo and guitarist Jerome Hol.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.