Dr. Lonnie Smith
Blue Note Records
Dr. Lonnie Smith came to define, along with Jimmy Smith, the funky, soul-jazz sound of the Hammond B3 organ during the ’50s and the ’60s, and laid the groundwork for future funksters such as Medeski Martin & Wood and John Scofield. Smith’s fat sounds have been repeatedly sampled by such artists as Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan and more. And for his first record on Blue Note in over 20 years, Smith plays to his strengths and with producer Don Was, has created yet another soulful classic.
Opening with “Play it Back” featuring Robert Glasper on piano, its Smith’s B3 that leads the way, expressive and ever tuneful. His guitarist, Jonathan Kreisberg is a delight, and reminds you a bit of the interplay between Smith and George Benson, who Smith first recorded with in the ’60s. Evolution is a varied record, going from originals such as “Afrodesia” (featuring New York sax star Joe Lovano) to an faithful take on Thelonious Monk’s signature song “Straight No Chaser”, and a lovely “My Favorite Things”.
But it’s the closing number “African Suite” that recalls the great “spaced out funk” of his 1970s work Astral Traveling, with Kreisberg’s acoustic guitar and John Ellis on flute mixed up in a stew with Smith’s keyboards that winds and beguiles in its ten minute ride, and shows that Dr. Lonnie Smith is still the master of that certain something he’s been honing since he first made the scene in the ’50s. Play on, doctor, play on!