Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio
Time was, the jazz landscape was populated by a wide assortment of Hammond organists, among them Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott, Larry Young and John Patton. All of them are gone now, which makes appearances by one of their peers, Dr. Lonnie Smith, all the more treasurable. Named a 2017 NEA Jazz Master, the 75-year-old organist is at the top of his game, as witness two recent albums: In the Beginning, an electrifying octet offering, and Evolution, his dynamic return to Blue Note after 46 years.
A native of Buffalo, Smith was influenced early on by Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett, key transitional figures in paving the way for organists from big band swing and jump blues to R&B-infused jazz. And like virtually all modern jazz organists, he was influenced by Jimmy Smith (no relation). As a ’60s sideman with saxophonist Lou Donaldson (hear Alligator Boogaloo) and guitarist George Benson (hear: The George Benson Cookbook) and on classics of his own including Think! and Turning Point, the Doctor doubled down on the soul-jazz part of his artistic makeup.
As a solo artist, Smith has set himself apart with his sweeping orchestral approach, characterized by its rich harmonies, multiphonic effects and offbeat touches. If many jazz organists remain in a familiar comfort zone, this turbaned stylist leaves you wondering what he’ll do next. Count on serial surprises tonight, when he will perform with his first-rate guitarist of several seasons, Jonathan Kreisberg, and drummer Joe Dyson, a New Orleans native who has played and recorded with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.