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Smith, Jimmy: Root Down

There's veteran blues~jazz organist and legend Jimmy Smith. Then there's his Hammond organ. And that's all you need to know. Except that Keith Emerson truly admires this man, too. Before Keith rocked UK clubs with his Hammond, Jimmy Smith grooved equally receptive ears with his. The music as smoky and dimlit as the club this album was recorded at — circa Los Angeles, 1972 — Root Down's first appearance on CD boasts several performances that were previously trimmed down for space, like "Slow Down Sagg," "Sagg Shootin' His Arrow," and "Root Down (and Get It)"—all of which clock over ten, eleven, and twelve minutes, respectively.

Funk-in-yo'-face is the divine rule, but Smith's blue sermons are never far behind; percussionist Buck Clarke's righteous rhythms and guitarist Arthur Adams' wah-wah liturgy are also present. The disc's sound won't disappoint, either: this is an awesome recording. Paul Humphrey's drums are central to the mix, his toms, cymbals and snare drum are crisp and resonant as on a studio recording. Let's not forget bassist Wilton Felder — there is many an instance to focus exclusively on his low-fi digitmagic.

Root Down busts out of the cellar doors with an unabridged twelve-minute live rendition of "Sagg Shootin' His Arrow" that sums up that 1970s vibe the over-40 funk-luvin' crowd misses and cherishes. Smith's organ rumbles with a lethal ferocity that even Art Adams can't seem to shoot down. "For Everyone Under The Sun" is mellow like smooth liquor; Smith's organ notes file forth like small, carved blocks of wood that tap down onto a length of lumber, on cue. Adams' "solarized" guitar line couldn't complement Smith's shtick any better. Wilton Felder's bass notes pace up and down like a courier late for a dangerous appointment on a rainy night on "After Hours," a sterling platter of down-home instrumental blues with guest Steve Williams on harmonica, and a great solo by Adams. "Root Down (and Get It)" is a scintillating classic that speaks for itself (no wonder the Beastie Boys copped it). "Let's Stay Together" espouses an escapist aura only found in regions of urbana, where people lose themselves in the tapestry of brick-and-mortar, flashing neon, and roving headlights. Root Down contains a nice surprise in the form of an alternate version of "Root Down (and Get It)," also over twelve minutes long.

Reissues contain to make life better for us all. Oh, and Niacin/Novello & James Taylor Quartet fans: you really ought to hear this, if you aren't familiar with Smith's repertoire. This is some of the tastiest blues~funk organ music. Smith's discography is extensive, and this excellent item is the proverbial bait on the hook. Warm up your credit cards.

Added: September 2nd 2003
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Verve Music Group's JIMMY SMITH Page
Hits: 3903
Language: english

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