Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jimmy Smith: Talkin' Verve (1996)

As with the others in this series, I can't judge this anthology as a anthology should properly be judged, on what it includes vs. what unincludes. Nor can I say much about how this fits in with Smith's career as a whole. I can say that Jimmy Smith came to Verve in the early '60s after a fruitful few years at Blue Note; like Wes Montgomery, he came to Verve to have hits, and have hits he did. Ain't nothin' wrong with that, as long as they're also good records, and Smith's were.

So here's what I discovered: Jimmy Smith is essential.

Basically what we have here is some of the funkiest, soulfullest music ever waxed. That's funky in, as the liner notes by Tom Terrell note, the traditional sense of pungent - the kind of thing that makes you wrinkle your nose in disbelief and perverse delight. That's why Booker T called his riff "Green Onions," and why Ike and Tina nailed it with "you're funkier than a mosquito's tweeter."

That doesn't mean it has to be on the one. There's a great variety of aromatic funk here, from everything from the most impeccably cool jazz - "Mellow Mood," with Wes himself - to borderline psychedelic FM soul - "Burning Spear," with Oliver Nelson going the Chess brothers one better. A plethora of grooves, a myriad ways to swing. But it's all funky. It's all good.

And not only is it good to you, it's good for you: if you're like me (pray to God you aren't) you've been hearing bits and pieces of Jimmy Smith in everything from Santana to Yes without ever realizing it. It's worth knowing the original, to find out how it all fits together.

In short, you need yourself some Jimmy Smith. And this is as good a way as any to get some, with that way cool cover and an anthologizing principle (cater to the acid jazz market) that doesn't neglect the groovy stuff for the orthodoxically jazzy stuff. Or vice versa.

Dig this: Jimmy Smith plays "Funky Broadway."

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