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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JIMMY SMITH

Live in '69

Jazz Icons by Naxos 2.119018

DVD

 

 


1. Sonnymoon For Two
2. Days of Wine and Roses
3. The Sermon
4. Alfie
5. Satin Doll
6. Organ Grinder's Swing
7. Got My Mojo Working
8. See See Rider
9. A Funky Blues Called I Don't Know
10. My Romance
11. Satin Doll

Jimmy Smith - Hammond organ
Eddie McFadden - Guitar
Charlie Crosby - Drums

 

Whenever there is a television programme about Charlie Parker, it always seems to include a brief bit of film footage showing him playing alongside Dizzy Gillespie. This seems to be virtually the only film of Parker available. Sadly, it is not unusual for the great jazz musicians never to have been adequately filmed for posterity.

So the Jazz Icons series of DVDs is doing us a service by digging out neglected film and TV footage of jazz greats. Their latest bundle of releases includes such jazz icons as Anita O'Day, Erroll Garner, Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey - and Jimmy Smith. This Jimmy Smith DVD was filmed in December 1969 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. It consists of two separate sets transmitted as separate TV shows, so that credit titles appear during track 5 as well as track 11!

One advantage of a DVD over a CD is that a DVD lets you see as well as hear what the musicians are doing. This is particularly valuable in the case of a musician like Jimmy Smith, as his amazing dexterity means that, without seeing it, you may not understand how he plays with such agility. It is also useful to students of jazz who can see, for example, how drummer Charlie Crosby often plays the ride cymbal by bouncing the stick instead of hitting two separate notes. We can also watch Jimmy Smith's technique of doubling the bass by using not only his left foot on the pedals but his left hand on the organ's lower manual. One is grateful that the cameramen seldom resorted to the kind of gimmicks that make too many modern videos virtually unwatchable.

The DVD includes many of Jimmy Smith's best-known tunes, such as Muddy Waters' Got My Mojo Working (which steered Jimmy into the British pop charts in 1966, complete with his vocals) and The Sermon (which lasts for an astonishing 23 minutes). These tunes indicate Smith's grounding in the blues which, with gospel influences, gives his playing much of its potency. But he also has a more tender side, exemplified by Alfie and My Romance. The latter treats the tune with a spirit of adventure manifest in some unusual chords.

He starts several tunes with long unaccompanied introductions, seemingly searching the keyboard (rather like Erroll Garner) and concealing which tune he is working towards. For instance, this happens at the start of A Funky Blues Called I Don't Know which eventually grooves along to a jazz-rock beat.

Bob Porter's section of the extensive sleeve-notes suggests that Jimmy favoured guitarists like Eddie McFadden who "tended to be chosen for their accompanying skills - none was an outstanding soloist". Yet McFadden plays some interesting guitar solos which the leader clearly enjoys. Ashley Kahn supplies a more comprehensive set of sleeve-notes, and the accompanying 24-page booklet is a welcome bonus, with some good illustrations.

Both sections of the concert end with Satin Doll, which Smith obviously relishes, ending the first take in church organ style. The film is in black-and-white but I was so intrigued by the playing that I only noticed this towards the end of the disc! This DVD shows why Jimmy Smith is still regarded as the ideal which other organists will seek to emulate.

Tony Augarde



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