Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Dr Lonnie Smith: Ronnie Scott's 24/02/2016

Lon1 Lon2 Lon 3 Lon3

Critic's pick,Dr Lonnie Smith was in town to promote his excellent new album on Blue Note and just like the proverbial prodigal son,he has returned to the iconic label after a 45 year absence!Tonight in the world's greatest jazz venue,the good doctor captured a raw essence,the master of dynamism played out the drama to thrilling effect without sacrificing the nuances,which this place is so good at capturing.The bulk of the evening was rousing, rombustuous, funny and funky.Like a mischevious jazz elf, the doc hit the stage in cosmic mode opening with some slowgrinding funk adrift in wah guitar and space age noises,he is a one man movie machine,setting the scene with a comfortably laid back groove called 'Back Track' before launching into a searing solo that was joyfully one of many.

He really seems to be bigger than the music.It's as if he's tapped in to the cosmos chaneling and communicating with the gods of jazz (Coltrane Monk,Davis etc..) It takes but a moment to realise you are witnessing the Zen of hammond and feeling its spiritual riposte,the church of hammond if you like and the good doctor is at very least, an Archbishop in this organ canon! A quarter of an hour in his presence and you lose all sense of time and your nervous system!

The calming effect with the ballad of the evening, 'Frame For The Blues ' offered a welcoming respite but not for long as guitarist, Methenyesque,Jonathan Kreisburg, whipped up a veritable storm ringing out sustained notes and fast triplet runs with virtuosic intensity,whilst the ecstatic Smith beamed and gesticulated at him wildly and the heavily reverbed axe resounded round the hallowed hall adding a further other wordly dimension to proceedings- a jazz power trio in its visceral element!

Monk's 'Straight No Chaser' got heavily reharmonised (fortunately not Hans Groiner style) with rising swathes and an avalanche of chords for Kreisburg to sink his teeth into aided an abetted by the acutely sharp and propulsive drums of Jonathan Blake,a titan of the tom tom and the sultan of the snare playing right in between the cracks!

His groove is mighty,greasy even and his pocket deep,the new orleans drumming style on the churchy '50 ways to leave your lover' was particularly memorable as was the lay out of his drumkit,flatter than a pancake!Coltrane's 'Few Of My Favourite Things'was another highlight propelled with swinging ferocity as was Jimmy Smith's 'Mellow Moon'in that classic blue note boogaloo style.

He is the true master, which is very evident here, and he has certain stylish qualities (drive,power an insistent urge and tasteful restraint) in addition to a superb technique and chordal dexterity in his playing that probably is only surpassed byJimmy Smith (though material wise not) .Put the Smiths together and hey presto! You've got a number one: the organ champ,Joey DeFrancesco as opposed to Morissey!

One of the last greats still standing and on his 24th album 'Evolution' the circle is now complete.An album with imperturbable groove,rhythm and concise playing and on the evidence of tonight's playing, a trio with clearly bundles of appeal.Hey and what's with the musical walking stick? (see pic)That was sheer madness! Did M design that for you?
Words Emrys Baird

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