Written by Becca Pulliam from National Public Radio
Hammond B3 organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith recently led his trio through a soulful set before a sold-out house at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club in Washington, D.C. The good doctor turns 70 this year, and he’s still a leader and innovator on his instrument. He’s also gaining a whole new audience, as young musicians and producers sample his deep, relentless grooves.
His guitarist, Jonathan Kreisberg, says that while Smith has recorded some fine studio albums over the years, his music really needs to be heard live to get the full experience. The full array of his artistry is on display throughout this set, which features several tunes off his new album, The Healer, including a mellow version of “Mellow Mood” — written by another organ legend, Jimmy Smith. Dr. Lonnie Smith shows his playful side with a cinematic suite that begins with Harold Mabern’s “Beehive” (Smith plays the distinctive Miles Davis-ish “trumpet” lines on one of his many effects pedals), which segues into a surging version of “My Favorite Things.” The set closes with “Play It Back,” one of the funkiest tunes off Smith’s epic album, Live at Club Mozambique, and “Pilgrimage” — the kind of slow, powerful groove that is as much his trademark as are his turban and long white beard.
It’s been a long and amazing trip for Dr. Lonnie Smith since the Buffalo, N.Y., native first won Best Organist honors from Downbeat magazine in 1969. The accolades continue: This month, he’s the headliner — with his trio and his In the Beginning Octet — for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters showcase at the Jazz Standard in New York City, Jan. 10-13.
Scriptwriter and producer: Mark Schramm; Recording engineer and Surround Sound mixer: Duke Markos; Special thanks to Kevin Struthers, Jean Thill and Greg Hartman of Kennedy Center Jazz.