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Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith on the Hammond organ
Background information
Birth name James Oscar Smith
Also known as The Incredible Jimmy Smith
Born December 8, 1928(1928-12-08)
Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died February 8, 2005 (aged 76)
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
Genres Soul-jazz
Hard bop
Mainstream jazz
Jazz fusion
Occupations musician
Instruments Hammond B-3 electric organ
Years active 1956-2005
Labels Blue Note, Verve

Jimmy Smith (December 8, 1928 [birth year is disputed and is often given as 1925] [1] – February 8, 2005) was a jazz musician whose performances on the Hammond B-3 electric organ helped to popularize this instrument. In 2005, Smith was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honors that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians.[2]



Born James Oscar Smith and originally a pianist, Smith switched to organ in 1953 after hearing Wild Bill Davis. He purchased his first Hammond organ, rented a warehouse to practice in and emerged after little more than a year with an exciting new sound which was to completely revolutionize the way in which the instrument could be played. On hearing him playing in a Philadelphia club, Blue Note's Alfred Lion immediately signed him to the label and with his second album, also known as The Champ, quickly established Smith as a new star on the jazz scene. He was a prolific recording artist and as a leader, recorded around 40 sessions for Blue Note in just 8 years beginning in 1956. His most notable albums from this period include The Sermon!, House Party, Home Cookin' , Midnight Special, Back at the Chicken Shack and Prayer Meetin' .

Smith then signed to Verve Records label in 1962. His first album Bashin', sold well and for the first time set Smith with a big band, led by Oliver Nelson. Further big band collaborations followed, most successfully with Lalo Schifrin for The Cat and guitarist Wes Montgomery, with whom he recorded two albums: The Dynamic Duo and Further Adventures Of Jimmy and Wes. Other notable albums from this period include Blue Bash and Organ Grinder's Swing with Kenny Burrell, The Boss with George Benson, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Got My Mojo Working, and the funky Root Down.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Smith recorded with some of the great jazz musicians of the day such as Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Grady Tate and Donald Bailey. In the 1970s, Smith opened his own supperclub in Los Angeles, California and played there regularly. With Guitarist Paul Saenz, Larry Paxton, on Drums, Freddy Garcia, on Sax.

Smith had a career revival in the 1980s and 1990s, again recording for Blue Note and Verve, and for Milestone and Elektra. Smith also recorded with other artists including Quincy Jones/Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Joey DeFrancesco. His last major album Dot Com Blues (Blue Thumb, 2000), featured many special guests such as Dr. John, B. B. King and Etta James.

Musical style

While the electric organ was used in jazz by Fats Waller and Count Basie, Smith's virtuoso improvisation technique on the Hammond helped to popularize the electric organ as a jazz and blues instrument. For ballads, he played walking bass lines on the bass pedals. For uptempo tunes, he would play the bass line on the lower manual and use the pedals for emphasis on the attack of certain notes, which helped to emulate the attack and sound of a string bass.


Smith influenced many other jazz organists, as well as rock keyboardists like Jon Lord, Brian Auger, Keith Emerson. More recently, Smith influenced bands such as the Beastie Boys, who sampled the bassline from "Root Down (and Get It)" from Root Down — and saluted Smith in the lyrics — for their own hit "Root Down," Medeski, Martin & Wood, and The Hayden-Eckert Ensemble. The Acid Jazz movement also reflects Smith's organ style. In 1999, Smith guested on two tracks of a live album, Incredible! with his protégé, Joey DeFrancesco, a then 28-year-old organist. Smith and DeFrancesco later played together on the collaborative album Legacy, released in 2005 shortly after Smith's death.


As leader

Blue Note 1956-63

[Jimmy Smith recorded more than forty sessions as a leader for Blue Note between 1956-63. Many of them were not released until several years after the original recording dates, as shown] *


  • A New Sound-A New Star Vol.1
  • A New Sound-A New Star Vol.2
  • The Incredible Jimmy Smith at the Organ Vol.3
  • At Club Baby Grand Vol.1
  • At Club Baby Grand Vol.2


  • A Date With Jimmy Smith Vol. 1
  • A Date With Jimmy Smith Vol. 2
  • Jimmy Smith At The Organ Vol. 1
  • Jimmy Smith At The Organ Vol. 2
  • The Sounds of Jimmy Smith
  • Groovin' at Small's Vol. 1
  • Groovin' at Small's Vol. 2
  • Plays Pretty Just for You
  • Jimmy Smith Trio + LD *
  • Cherokee *
  • Lonesome Road *


  • House Party
  • The Sermon!
  • Confirmation *
  • Cool Blues *
  • Confirmation *
  • Six Views of the Blues *
  • Softly As A Summer Breeze *


  • Home Cookin'



  • Straight Life *


  • Plays Fats Waller


  • Rockin' the Boat
  • Prayer Meetin'
  • Bucket! *
  • I'm Movin' On *
  • Special Guests *
Verve 1962-73


  • Bashin'


  • Any Number Can Win
  • Blue Bash (with Kenny Burrell)
  • Hobo Flats
  • Live at the Village Gate (Metro)


  • The Cat
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Christmas Cookin'/Christmas '64


  • Monster
  • Organ Grinder Swing
  • Got My Mojo Workin'
  • In Hamburg Live (Metro)
  • Live in Concert /Paris/Salle Pleyel Live (Metro)
  • La Métamorphose des cloportes (Soundtrack) *


  • Hoochie Coochie Man
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • The Dynamic Duo (with Wes Montgomery)
  • Further Adventures of Jimmy & Wes (with Wes Montgomery) *


  • Respect
  • Plays the Standards (Sunset SUS-5175/SUM-1175)


  • The Boss
  • Livin' It Up
  • Stay Loose
  • Live Salle Pleyel (Trema) *


  • Groove Drops


  • I'm Gonna Git Myself Together
  • In A Plain Brown Wrapper


  • Bluesmith
  • Root Down - Live
  • Newport In New York '72/The Jimmy Smith Jam, Vol.5 (Atlantic)


  • Portuguese Soul
  • The Other Side Of Jimmy Smith
Various Labels


  • Blacksmith (Pride)
  • Paid in Full (Mojo)


  • '75 (Mojo)


  • Sit on It! (Mercury)


  • It's Necessary (Mercury)


  • Unfinished Business (Mercury)


  • The Cat Strikes Again (Laserlight)
  • Second Coming (Mojo)


  • All The Way Live (with Eddie Harris) (Milestone) *


  • Off the Top (Elektra)


  • Keep on Comin' (Elektra)


  • One Night With Blue Note, Preserved - Vol. 3 (Blue Note)


  • Go For Watcha Know (Blue Note)


  • Prime Time (Milestone)


  • Fourmost Live (Milestone)
  • Fourmost Return (Milestone) *


  • Sum Serious Blues (Milestone)
  • The Master (Blue Note)
  • The Master II (Blue Note) *


  • Damn! (Verve)


  • Angel Eyes (Verve)


  • Dot Com Blues (Blue Thumb/Verve)


  • Black Cat/Daybreak (Castle)

As sideman


  1. ^ "He died of unspecified natural causes, said his stepson and former manager, Michael Ward, who also said that his age of 76 was based on his birth certificate and not the birth date found in most reference books." Ben Ratliff: Jimmy Smith, Jazz Organist and Pioneer, Is Dead at 76. The New York Times, February 10, 2005
  2. ^ Allmusic biography

External links


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