Monday, February 21, 2005
Jimmy Smith - RIP
Didn't have time to mount a brief Obit for the legend before we went to Germany.
What's left to say ? That he was THE single-handed revivor of an instrument that seemed doomed to the kind of queasy end-of-the-pier doldrums.
Inspired by the great Wild Bill Davis (note to self - dig out that great Caves De La Huchette live album, and blog accordingly), Smith pioneered a hard, strident sound, made tougher and funkier through the use of heavy bass pedalling. Have you ever tried to play a Hammond ? Flying a chopper would be simpler. And his long, pyrotechnic marshalling of Bernstein's theme from Walk On The Wild Side, with Oliver Nelson signalled a desire to go beyond the mere 30 organ stops in front of him.
Gone were the supine, lax, chordal-based output of many of his peers ; this was all about the note. And the silence in between. The definition of funk.
His impact was enormous, sparking Jimmy McGriff and Charlie Earland to change instruments mid-career, and his legacy after his tenure at Blue Note left a mark on the sound of labelmates Grant Green, Lou Donaldson and many others. He scorned the efforts of James Brown's hammond playing, and held a healthy contempt for those that mimicked or bit his style.
Recent concerts in London saw a tough gritty fighter - a man justly arrogant of his own impact. This was not a man of whom you could think ever took an easier path in life. Cussing like a sailor, he played the crowd like a last great showman, and took the roof off with his gnarling style.