Recorded live at Small's Paradise, New York City on April 7, 1958.
Remastered in 2001. All transfers from the analog tapes to digital were made at 24-bit resolution. The original CD issue on this material (B2-84441) contained pitch errors that have since been corrected.
#1, 2, 4 and 5 originally issued in 1980 on Blue Note LT-1054.
#3 and 6 to 8 are bonus tracks.
This CD should greatly interest all Jimmy Smith collectors, including those who already have the original LP. In addition to four excellent selections (quintets with altoist Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks on tenor, guitarist Eddie McFadden, either Art Blakey or Donald Bailey on drums, and the organist/leader), there are three previously unissued numbers from the same gig, featuring the quartet of Donaldson, Smith, McFadden, and Bailey. The repertoire is filled with blues and bop standards, and the soloing is at a consistently high and hard-swinging level. Jimmy Smith fans will be pleased.
The 2002 re-release by Blue Note includes several songs not included on the original: "Announcements by Babs Gonzales," "What's New," "Small's Minor," and "Once in a While."
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Jimmy Smith's story is an unusual one because he single-handedly introduced an instrument into the modern jazz mainstream and created a sound and a style to go with it. What is most unusual is that he did not even approach the instrument until he was 28 years old, and he did not play a gig under his own leadership or record an album until he was 29.
Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on December 8, 1 926, Jimmy studied piano from his father and later attended the Orenstein School of Music in Philadelphia for three years, studying piano, bass, harmony and theory. A succession of R&B gigs followed until 1955 when Smith began considering the possibilities of the electric organ, having been inspired by the work of Wild Bill Davis.
He made a deal with a Philadelphia organ dealer to play on one of their organs at one dollar an hour until he could afford to buy his own. When he did buy his own instrument, he housed it in a warehouse near his residence and worked out conscientiously everyday, systematically teaching himself the instrument's capabilities and possibilities.
After a year of sweat, he emerged with a style all his own and a facility that could be described as nothing less than complete virtuosity. He formed his first trio with guitarist Thornel Schwartz and drummer Bey Perry. Word of this phenomenon came up to New York via musicians such as pianist Freddie Redd who happened to catch Smith while traveling through Philly. A few initial gigs in New York, uptown at Small's Paradise and downtown at Cafe Bohemia, and this man playing organ was literally the talk of the town. Alfred Lion of Blue Note was quick to check him out and even quicker to sign him. And from his first sessions, which included "The Preacher" and "The Champ," Jimmy Smith's records were commercial and artistic hits.
Smith recorded for Blue Note from February 1 956 to February 1 963. And the label put him in a variety of settings during those seven years. He recorded with his working trio, with singers Babs Gonzales and Bill Henderson, with rhythm section guests Kenny Burrell, Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones, in quartet setting with Lou Donaldson or Stanley Turrentine and with all star sextets that included Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Tina Brooks, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Blue Mitchell, Jackie McLean, Ike Quebec and many others.
He seemed to shine most on live recordings and dates with an assemblage of challenging hornmen. In this album, we have both. Small's Paradise, the legendary Harlem club at 1 35 Street and 7th Avenue, has contributed to the history of jazz since the twenties. It has special significance to Smith and his relationship with Blue Note. The late Frank Wolff, Alfred Lion's partner in Blue Note, wrote, "I first heard Jimmy at Small's Paradise in January of 1956. It was his first gig in New York- one week. He was a stunning sight. A man in convulsions, face contorted, crouched over in apparent agony, the fingers flying, his foot dancing over the pedals. The air was filled with waves of sound that I had never heard before. The noise was shattering. A few people sot around, puzzled, but impressed. He came off the stand, smiling, the sweat dripping all over him. 'So what do you think?' 'Yeah,' I said. That's all I could say. Alfred Lion had already made up his mind."
"It was in the cards," Wolff continued, "that Jimmy would succeed. He had revamped the jazz organ and come up with a new sound. The sound has now been adopted by almost all jazz organists, but his style remains his own. Right from the start of his recording career, he was in full command of this very complex and demanding machine, the Hammond organ. Apart from his incredible technique, he had fire, feeling, beat, humor- all adding up to a highly personal style. Everything was there, everything was right when he did 'The Champ' and through the years so many other masterpieces. Jimmy Smith is a great artist- and a beautiful guy."
After some 20 months of prolific recordings for Blue Note and some 11 albums on the market, Smith and his regular trio of Eddie McFadden on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums and producer Alfred Lion and engineer Rudy Van Gelder moved into Small's Paradise for the night of November 15, 1957 and recorded enough material for three albums, although only two were issued. They were Groovin' At Small's Paradise, Volumes One & Two (BLP 1585/1586)
Again on April 7, 1958, Smith's trio was back at Small's with Blue Note taping. Lou Donaldson, already a frequent fourth for Smith on certain gigs and record dates, was added for the evening. And special guests Art Blakey and Tina Brooks insured a very special night. The material from this session was not issued at the time. The reason was probably not the music, which was excellent, but the fact that it was recorded only in mono at a time when stereo was growing rapidly.
The regular quartet played the first two sets, but the first set ended with Charlie Parker's "Cool Blues" with Tina Brooks added to the band. The third set was comprised of three tunes, "A Night In Tunisia," "Dark Eyes" and Babs Gonzales's "Groovin' At Small's" with Art Blakey replacing Bailey.
Blakey, who had already guested on several Smith dates by this time, was assurance of instant fire and inspiration. And he works his usual magic here, controlling the dynamics and the spirit of the music from the drums, giving it life and power and gut beauty.
Tina Brooks, the late tenor saxophonist, was a terribly underrated and very brilliant improviser. The subtlety of his tone and intricacy of his ideas didn't make him an easy sell. Six weeks prior to this date, he recorded with Smith on a marathon sextet jam session that produced The Sermon, House Party and Confirmation. Almost his entire legacy would be documented by Blue Note. He played on Kenny Burrell's Blue Lights and At The Five Spot albums, on Freddie Hubbard's first record, two Freddie Redd dates, a Jackie McLean sextet session and on four album dates that he led, only one of which was issued in his lifetime. By the end of the sixties, Brooks had stopped playing out of general despair, and by the end of 1974, he had died of general dissipation. His death seems to us as tragic as his life must have seemed to him.
But this night at Small's was one of relaxed cooking, a get together of peers who speak the same language and speak it better than most. The audience was small and knowing, and the atmosphere was informal on this Monday night. Babs Gonzales, who functioned as emcee that night, or Alfred Lion might consult the band between tunes. And if a tune got off to a wrong start, they'd stop and start again. But once they were rolling, they were unstoppable. And the intimacy of the evening contributed to the spontaneity.
On "Cool Blues," you can hear Lou signalling Jimmy that he had played his last chorus and that the organist should take over by playing an insistent quote from "Now's The Time" as if to say, "wake up, take it!" And on "A Night In Tunisia," Blakey turns the beat around at one point, and Lou hesitates in his confusion. But Smith stampedes on through until the groove is reestablished and Donaldson continues his flight. These moments of human imperfection add to the feeling of being in on something at the point of creation. That is part or the magic of a jam session in capable hands.
Jimmy Smith with guests Art Blakey, Lou Donaldson and Tina Brooks playing live at Small's Paradise with Rudy Van Gelder's tape machines running: an unbeatable chemistry and a night which we can all share in perpetuity.
- Michael Cuscuna, 1980