Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


SMITH, Jimmy

(b 1928, Norristown PA; d 6 February 2005, Phoenix AZ) Jazz organist, probably the most popular and influential on the instrument. Both parents played piano; he worked with his father in clubs '42; studied music formally late '40s, turned pro '52, formed own trio '55 and was immediately successful, inventing modern jazz on the organ as Charlie Christian had done on the guitar: within a few years imitators of his trio format with guitar and drums were legion. He said he wanted to sound like a horn, and that his style came from the influence of Charlie Parker rather than that of other keyboardists. Eddie McFadden played guitar '56-7, then Kenny Burrell, then Quentin Warren for most of the '60s; the regular drummer through the Blue Note years was Donald Bailey (b 26 March 1934, Philadelphia; settled on West Coast freelancing in clubs; also recorded with Hampton Hawes, etc). Smith had twelve Hot 100 singles in Billboard's pop chart '62-8; 22 albums '62-70 also crossed over to the pop LP chart. About 20 albums for Blue Note '56-63, many later reissued, with guests Lou Donaldson, Stanley Turrentine, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Ike Quebec, George Coleman etc incl. Plays Pretty Just For You '57, House Party and The Sermon '57-8, Home Cookin' '58, Crazy Baby, Open House and Back At The Chicken Shack '60, Plays Fats Waller '62. LPs on Verve '62-73 began with his biggest seller, first of several with a big band arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson: Bashin' '62 was a top ten LP with no. 21 single 'Walk On The Wild Side'; others with Nelson included Hobo Flats '63, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf '64, Monster '65, Hoochie Coochie Man and Peter And The Wolf '66 (with finale called 'Peter Plays Some Blues'), Livin' It Up '68. LPs with Wes Montgomery '66 (The Dynamic Duo and The Further Adventures Of Jimmy And Wes) also had tracks with Nelson, as did Got My Mojo Workin' '65 (Smith's debut as singer on title track). The Cat '64 won a Grammy, a no. 12 LP arranged and conducted by Lalo Schifrin. There were also plenty of fine small-group sets, including Organ Grinder Swing '65 (with Burrell, Grady Tate on drums), Respect '67, The Boss '69 with George Benson, etc. Other albums on MGM, Mercury, Pride, Mojo, Milan labels '74-80. Off The Top '82 incl. Tate, Turrentine, Benson, Ron Carter, Smith playing some synth; Keep On Comin' '83, live at Atlanta jazz festival, had Johnny Griffin, Burrell, Mike Baker on drums, Smith on piano as well as organ; both on Elektra. Back on the revived Blue Note label after 23 years, Go For Watcha Know '86 was a reunion with Tate, Turrentine and Burrell plus guests. The Master II '93 was made in Japan with Burrell and Jimmie Smith on drums.

Johnny 'Hammond' Smith (b John Robert Smith, 16 December 1933, Louisville KY; d 4 June 1997), also a popular organist, made LPs on Prestige '59-71; drummer Jimmie Smith (b James Howard Smith, 27 Jan. '38, Newark NJ) worked and recorded with Erroll Garner, B. B. King, Richard 'Groove' Holmes, Jimmy Forrest, O. C. Smith, many others. None of these is related. Meanwhile, younger players having taken up the organ, the original one-and-only Jimmy Smith came back with quartet Midnight Special '89 and trio The Master '94 on Blue Note, both with Burrell, and Damn! '95 on Verve, with Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and others, to remind us who's boss; Angles Eyes: Ballads And Slow Jams '96 on Verve focused on moods in solo, duo and trio tracks.