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Jimmy Smith (musician)

Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith at the Liri Blues Festival in 2004
Background information
Birth name James Oscar Smith
Also known as The Incredible Jimmy Smith
Born (1925-12-08)December 8, 1925
Norristown, Pennsylvania, United States
Died February 8, 2005(2005-02-08) (aged 79)
Scottsdale, Arizona, America
Genres Hard bop, mainstream jazz, jazz-funk, jazz fusion
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments organ
Years active 1956–2005
Labels Blue Note, Verve

James Oscar "Jimmy" Smith (December 8, 1925[1] or 1928[2] – February 8, 2005)[1][2] was an American electric organ, creating an indelible link between sixties soul and jazz improvisation.

In 2005, Smith was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor that America bestows upon jazz musicians.[3][4]


  • Early years 1
  • Career 2
  • Later career 3
  • Musical style 4
  • Discography 5
    • As leader 5.1
    • As sideman 5.2
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early years

There is confusion about Smith's birth year, with various sources citing either 1925 or 1928. Born James Oscar Smith in Wild Bill Davis.[5][6][7]


He purchased his first Hammond organ, rented a warehouse to practice in and emerged after little more than a year. Upon hearing him playing in a Philadelphia club, Blue Note's Alfred Lion immediately signed him to the label and his second album, The Champ, quickly established Smith as a new star on the jazz scene. He was a prolific recording artist and, as a leader, dubbed The Incredible Jimmy Smith, he recorded around forty sessions for Blue Note in just eight years beginning in 1956. Albums from this period include The Sermon!, House Party, Home Cookin', Midnight Special, Back at the Chicken Shack and Prayer Meetin'.

Smith signed to the Got My Mojo Working, and Root Down.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Smith recorded with some of the great jazz musicians of the day such as Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Grady Tate and Donald Bailey.

The Jimmy Smith Trio performed "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "The Sermon" in the 1964 film Get Yourself a College Girl.

In the 1970s, Smith opened his own supper club in Los Angeles, California, and played there regularly with guitarist Paul C Saenz, Kenny Dixon on drums, Herman Riley and John F. Phillips on saxophone; also included in the band was harmonica/flute player Stanley Behrens. The 1972 album Root Down, considered a seminal influence on later generations of funk and hip-hop musicians, was recorded live at the club, albeit with a different group of backing musicians.

Later career

Holle Thee Maxwell, then known as Holly Maxwell, was Smith's vocalist for two years in the late 1970s. During a South African tour, they recorded the album, Jimmy Plays for the People in 1978.[8]

Smith had a career revival in the 1980s and 1990s, again recording for Blue Note and Verve, and for Milestone and Elektra. Smith also recorded with other artists including Quincy Jones/Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson (he plays on the title track of the Bad album), Dee Dee Bridgewater and Joey DeFrancesco.

His last major album, Dot Com Blues (Verve/Blue Thumb, 2001), featured many special guests such as Dr. John, B. B. King and Etta James.

Smith and his wife Lola moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2004, but Lola died of cancer a few months later.[9] Smith later recorded an album, Legacy, with Joey DeFrancesco, and the two began preparation to go on tour.[10] However, before this could happen, Smith was found dead on February 8, 2005, at his Scottsdale home by his manager, Robert Clayton.[9] He was deemed to have died in his sleep of natural causes. Smith is survived by two sisters, Janet Taylor and Anita Jones; and three children, Jia, Connie and Jimmy.[11]

Musical style

Jimmy Smith in 2005

While the electric organ had been used in jazz by bebop-based single note runs. For ballads, he played walking bass lines on the bass pedals. For uptempo tunes, he would play the bass line on the lower manual and use the pedals for emphasis on the attack of certain notes, which helped to emulate the attack and sound of a string bass.

Smith influenced a constellation of

  • Jimmy Smith comprehensive discography
  • Jimmy Smith discography at Jazzlists
  • Jimmy Smith at the Internet Movie Database
  • Wordpress 3.9 in honor of jazz organist Jimmy Smith

External links

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Allmusic biography
  4. ^ Musician Biographies
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^


As sideman

  • 1955: The Fantastic Jimmy Smith with Don Gardner Trio
  • 1965: The Amazing Jimmy Smith Trio – Live at the Village Gate (Metro)
  • 1965: Live in Concert - The Incredible Jimmy Smith (Metro)
  • 1967: Plays the Standards (Sunset SUS-5175/SUM-1175) (Compilation album of the 1956 Blue Note studio sessions)
  • 1972: Newport in New York '72 / The Jimmy Smith Jam, Vol. 5 (Atlantic)
  • 1974: Black Smith (Pride)
  • 1974: Paid in Full (Mojo)
  • 1975: '75 (Mojo)
  • 1976: Sit on It! (Mercury)
  • 1977: It's Necessary (Mercury)
  • 1978: Unfinished Business (Mercury)
  • 1980: The Cat Strikes Again (LaserLight)
  • 1980: Second Coming (Mojo)
  • 1982: Off the Top (Elektra)
  • 1983: Keep on Comin' (Elektra)
  • 2001: Black Cat / Daybreak (Castle)
Other labels
  • 1981: All the Way Live (with Eddie Harris)
  • 1989: Prime Time
  • 1990: Fourmost Live
  • 1990: Fourmost Return
  • 1993: Sum Serious Blues'
Blue Note

As leader



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