Friday, February 11, 2005

Jimmy Smith...R.I.P.

Jimmy Smith, 76, was top jazz organist

The New York Times
February 11, 2005

Jimmy Smith, who made the Hammond organ one of the most popular sounds in jazz beginning in the mid-1950s, died Tuesday at his home in Phoenix. He was 76.

He died of unspecified natural causes, said his stepson and former manager, Michael Ward.

Before Jimmy Smith, the electric organ had been nearly a novelty in jazz. Smith made it an important instrument in the genre and influenced nearly every subsequent notable organist in jazz and rock, including Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Larry Young, Shirley Scott, Al Kooper and Joey DeFrancesco.

Like many other great jazz musicians, Smith insisted that the key to finding his own sound was through studying musicians who did not play his instrument.

"I've always been an admirer of Charlie Parker, and I try to sound like him," he wrote in a short piece for The Hammond Times in 1964. "I wanted that single-line sound like a trumpet, a tenor or an alto saxophone."

He made many popular records for Blue Note and Verve, among them "Groovin' at Small's Paradise," "The Cat" (with the arranger Lalo Schifrin), a few records with the guitarist Wes Montgomery and in 1965, his vocal version of "Got My Mojo Workin'," arranged by Oliver Nelson.

His survivors include a son, Jimmy Jr., and a daughter, Jia, both of Philadelphia.


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