Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Best Emergency Content

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As threatened earlier, because I haven't much to say, here's my Law School "newspaper" "review" of the Jimmy Smith concert I went to a couple of weeks ago.

Famed jazz organist Jimmy Smith visited New York this past week to play four nights of shows at the Iridium Jazz Club off Times Square. Hailed by aficionados as “the Father of the (Hammond) B3” or “the Father of Soul Jazz”, Mr. Smith is most likely to be recognized by the uninitiated of our generation as the man behind the organ sample on the Beastie Boys’ classic “Root Down” (lifted from Smith’s “Root Down (And Get It)”—at least that’s how I suddenly realized who Jimmy Smith was upon first listening to him.

Smith’s second set on January 13 proved that, while the years are catching up to this legend, his spirit remains strong along with his commitment to entertain. Having celebrated his 76th birthday less than a month ago, Smith required a steadying hand to help him climb the four or five steps up to the Iridium stage and looked significantly more frail then the last time I saw him (back when he was just 73). But upon taking the stage, Smith charmed the audience with a few quick shuffling dance moves before taking his place behind his organ, backed by a three piece band consisting of a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. (I suppose if I were a true arts journalist I’d have noted who his bandmates were, but, hey, I’m not a true arts journalists.)

Smith’s set consisted of just a handful of lengthy numbers, ranging from the mellow to hot. Smith eschewed organ solos (Smiths lack of soloing these days is a common grip of real jazz critics), deferring to his backing musicians for solos on their own instruments (which they provided quite nicely) and substituted entertaining moves like striking at the keys with his hat or playing a few chords with his chin (a move that Smith told the audience “I ain’t never done before”) for his virtuosic runs of yesterday. But I don’t mean to come down hard on Smith, the show was excellent and the crowd was fortunate to catch Smith willing to perform classics of his like “The Sermon” and “I Got my Mojo Working.” Smith himself seemed to be in a fairly lighthearted mood and embellished several of his numbers with especially ridiculous scatting—which is saying something, when you consider the inherently nonsensical nature of scat.

All in all, it was a fine show, and one that I’m glad I caught. And a word on the Iridium: I’d never been to this club before, but I found it to be one of the most accommodating and well-run jazz clubs I’ve visited in the city with excellent sight-lines throughout the club—and no seats along the back of the stage (I’m looking at you, Blue Note), which is especially nice. Should you notice a favorite artist of yours is headed to the Iridium (located at the southeast corner of Broadway and 51st) I’d recommend taking a trip up to catc them.

The first time I saw Jimmy Smith, at the Catolina Bar and Grill in Hollywood, Arsenio Hall was there and I had to ask him to get out of my way so I could get into the bathroom. He did.

I'll be back with fresh content when I've got it.

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