The Big Brawl
Down Here on The Ground
Where Is Magdalena?
In Search of Truth
The Cat Strikes Again
Jimmy Smith’s album The Cat Strikes Again features charts by Lalo
Schifrin of pieces by himself or by Smith with the one interestingly
anomalous inclusion of a James Last composition called Lonely Shepherd. The recording was made in 1980 and is part of
Inner City’s increasingly useful reissuing programme.
It’s a Soul-Jazz-Funk album – the balance varies from track to track – that
shows off Smith’s keyboard vernacular and also serves as none-too-subtle
promotion of the German instrument called the Wersi Saturn W3 organ, which
Smith was happy to tout around at the time for appropriate remuneration.
The soundtrack opener The Big Brawl features something of Ronnie
Fisher, erstwhile pianist for George Benson, and also the throbbing
electric bass of Chuck Domonico – Ray Brown plays upright bass on the
session but is much less audible unfortunately – before a long Wersi solo
from the leader. As throughout the brass is largely confined to skeletal
backing figures. Despite the sonic immobility of the keyboard instrument
it’s interesting how much lyricism Smith can extract from such a cumbersome
beast, as he demonstrates on the warmer quadrant of the easy-going Down Here on The Ground.
There’s plenty to detain the Smith fan in this album. There are the bop
fanfares of Laying Low where some fine bluesy guitar soling
impresses – there are three guitarists on board the set – the funk fiesta
of Free Ride where up-tempo swing is the only motivation, and the
filmic elements embedded in Wersi Time before Schifrin unleashes,
with Smith’s abetting, a funky workout rhythm. Then there are the unusually
folkloric hues, sounding Eastern European, enshrined in Where Is Magdalena? which expands the stylistic reach yet further.
The lyric-romantic introduction to Lonely Shepherd promises
similarly wider-ranging pleasures though the subsequent modish grooves
return the listener to more expected tram lines. The title track is the
closer, a jolly swinger with simple backing brass figures that reinforces
the leader’s effortless command of material that doesn’t always, it’s true,
stretch him too far.