Thursday, February 10, 2005

RIP Jimmy Smith

Jazz organ pioneer Jimmy Smith dies

Organist Jimmy Smith, who helped change the sound of
jazz by almost single-handedly introducing the soulful
electric riffs of the Hammond B-3 organ, has died at
age 79 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A spokeswoman for the Concord record label said Smith
died of natural causes on Tuesday.

Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on December 8, 1925,
Smith ruled the Hammond B-3 in the 1950s and 1960s and
blended jazz, blues, R&B, bebop and even gospel into
an exciting stew that became known as "soul jazz" - an
idiom that produced many imitators, followers and

"Anyone who plays the organ is a direct descendant of
Jimmy Smith. It's like Adam and Eve - you always
remind someone of Jimmy Smith," jazz organist Joey
DeFrancesco said in an interview with Reuters last

"He was the big pioneer, not only of the organ but
musically. He was doing things that (John) Coltrane
did in the '60s, but he did them back in '56 and '57,"
he added.

Paired with jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery in the
1960s, Smith first made his mark as a soloist on Blue
Note Records where, as one critic noted, he turned the
Hammond B-3 organ "into a down and dirty orchestra".

Among his best known albums on Blue Note were The
Sermon! Back at the Chicken Shack, Midnight Special,
Home Cookin', and Prayer Meetin'.

The pipe organ had been used in jazz in the 1930s by
such famous players as Fats Waller but it was
obviously too big and too heavy to be lugged into jazz

Smith was able to take his electric B-3 on the road
and created a jazz trio of organ, drums and either
guitar or saxophone.

Smith himself provided the bass lines by using the
organ's foot pedals.


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