Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer, and recording artist. With a career spanning over five decades, Smith stands as the preeminent Hammond B-3 organist in jazz today. He has been featured on over seventy albums and has recorded and performed with a virtual who’s who of the greatest jazz, blues, and R&B giants in the industry. Consequently, he has often been hailed as a “legend,” as a “living musical icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications. In April 2017, he will receive the nation’s highest honor when he is named an NEA Jazz Master. At the age of seventy-four, he is still progressing as an artist, as witnessed by his remarkable new Blue Note Records album, appropriately titled Evolution. The New York Times recently wrote that Smith “really seems to be up to something bigger than music, and older, and deeper.”
Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1942, Smith had an early musical influence in his mother who sparked a love of gospel, blues, and jazz music. As a teenager, he was introduced to the Hammond organ and began immersing himself in the records of Wild Bill Davis, Bill Doggett, and Jimmy Smith as well as paying rapt attention to the church organ. Smith’s first gigs were at the Pine Grill, a Buffalo club where he came to the attention of Lou Donaldson, Jack McDuff, and George Benson, eventually joining Benson’s quartet and moving to New York City.
After releasing his debut album Finger Lickin’ Good for Columbia, Smith joined Lou Donaldson’s band and made his first Blue Note appearance on the saxophonist’s hit 1967 album Alligator Boogaloo. Two more Donaldson albums followed (Mr. Shing-A-Ling and Midnight Creeper) before Smith was offered his own Blue Note deal, making his label debut with Think! in 1968. Smith went on to record another four Blue Note albums over the next two years (Turning Point, Move Your Hand, Drives, and Live at Club Mozambique), all of which are regarded as soul-jazz classics.
Raunchy riffs, greasy grooves, soulful sermons, tidal organ shifts, moody statements, hard-hitting solos, and punchy interjections, all of which help to enliven throwback songs, standards, and new pieces alike.
—All About Jazz
With a career spanning over five decades, Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled artist who stands as the preeminent Hammond B-3 organist in jazz today.
—Metro Silicon Valley