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Dr.Lonnie SMITH – Spiral 2010

Posted in Dr.Lonnie SMITH, JAZZ on December 22, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Dr.Lonnie SMITH – Spiral 2010


The Doctor is back doing his funky jazz thing…this time with his touring trio of Jonathan Kreisberg and Jamire Williams. This band is tight and playing standard jazz tunes in a not so standard way. They’ll be out touring in support of this release, so do yourself a favor and get out to see the master at work.

Dr. Lonnie Smith is internationally known as one of the premier jazz keyboardists in the history of the idiom. A dominant talent and pace-setting proponent of the Hammond B3 Organ, Dr. Lonnie Smith has been at the forefront of the jazz scene since 1969 when he was first named Top Organist by Downbeat Magazine
Vitality and age might be normally be at odds with one another, but not when discussing Dr. Lonnie Smith—the inimitable organ shaman of the modern soul-jazz epoch. Whether turning in clever takes on the music of indie rocker Beck, recasting familiar standards in his organic organ mold or shaping his own compositions to his liking, Smith never seems to be short on ideas. He furthers the traditional role of the organ in small-group jazz and puts a modern slant on things, giving the music a unique character that is also immediately accessible.
After meeting with some creative Crescent City natives like saxophonist Donald Harrison and drummer Herlin Riley on Rise Up! (Palmetto Records, 2009), with Spiral Smith is back to the organ/guitar/drums combination that’s worked so well for him in the past. While some prior albums have added a rhythm guitarist to the mix, Smith rides this one out with his current touring band mates, guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jamire Williams. This eight-song program touches on everybody from Harold Mabern and Rodgers and Hart to Slide Hampton, giving the trio a chance to put its stamp on a wide range of music.

A performance of “Mellow Mood,” written by organ great Jimmy Smith, begins with some funky drumming and Kreisberg’s lithe, steady solo lines contrast nicely with Smith’s mixture of space and speedy runs in his own soloing. Williams uses brushes at the breezy beginning of “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” but moves to sticks when he wants to create a firm swing feel. Smith’s electrifying, skittering chords during his solo are the highlight here. Hampton’s “Frame For The Blues” slowly strolls along, but the musicians bring back the energy for “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.” Kreisberg’s insistent rhythm guitar riffing screams for a samba-centered drum groove, but Williams doesn’t bite. Instead, he takes a funky approach, owing as much to Questlove of The Roots or David Garibaldi from Tower of Power as it does to modern jazz drumming. Kreisberg crafts some tasty solo lines here and Williams’ cymbal work becomes busier and more aggressive as the track progresses, culminating with his solo, over a rumbling organ bottom.

“Sweet & Lovely” lives up to its name and, on many other tracks here, Smith charmingly moans along with his own lines. “Spiral” begins with a sense of hushed intrigue and mystery. Kreisberg’s noir-ish lines slink along as Williams tiptoes behind him, and here the guitarist proves to be a moodier soloist than Smith. Mabern’s “Beehive” came across as modern-leaning, aggressive post-bop when Lee Morgan performed it in the early 1970s, but Smith gives it more of a fusion slant here. While this one is the edgiest performance on the album, Smith chooses to end things in a more peaceful, worry-free vein with “Sukiyaki.” With Spiral, Dr. Lonnie Smith continues to dole out funky, soulful and original musical prescriptions for the people.
By Dan Bilawsky.
Dr. Lonnie Smith shows no signs of slowing down. Spiral is is his fifth studio album since 2003, and his fourth for Palmetto. Produced by Matt Balitsaris, Smith’s trio includes guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jamire Williams. The program is a solid set of jazz nuggets, an original, and a couple of ballad standards. Things lead off with Jimmy Smith’s “Mellow Mood,” which is relaxed but hardly what the title suggests. Smith is in prime soul-jazz mode here, paying tribute to his mentor by swinging hard on the melody. Another nice touch is the reading of Slide Hampton’s “Frame for the Blues,” a smoky, nocturnal slow burner that features a fine solo by Kreisberg. Smith’s fire is reserved for Harold Mabern’s stomping “Beehive,” where the band not only plays full-bore, but executes the knotty harmonic and tempo changes flawlessly, making the tune feel more like a crackling rock jam than just a jazz tune — it’d be great to hear Smith’s band perform this tune with Phish. Kreisberg’s solo, which sounds a bit like steel drums, is the most mind-boggling thing on the record. More familiar material, such as “Sweet & Lovely” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” is handled with all the slippery swing that soul-jazz affords standards, and the trio is seamless — check Williams’ drumming on the former tune where he slips in breaks and off-meter fills while staying firmly in the pocket — and deft in both surprise and depth. Spiral puts the full range of Smith’s powers as an interpreter and improviser on display. This grooving trio makes it all sound easy, though nothing could be further from the truth.
By Thom Jurek.AMG.
Dr. Lonnie Smith- (Hammond B3 Organ);
Jonathon Kreisberg- (Guitar);
Jamire Williams- (Drums)
01. Mellow Mood 5:12
02. I’ve Never Been In Love Before 5:10
03. Frame For The Blues 8:54
04. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was 7:49
05. Sweet & Lovely 5:57
06. Spiral 5:55
07. Beehive 6:41
08. Sukiyaki 3:39
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