JAZZBO NOTES HIGHLY RECOMMENDED RECORDING
One of the best concerts I ever heard was Lonnie Smith at the now defunct 1369 Club in Cambridge Massachussetts in the early 80s. I remember him burning down the house playing cheesy tunes like Three Blind Mice with a pickup band of a drummer and a guitarist. I walked into the concert by accident. The 1369 Club was having a Giants of the B3 Organ series, and I just happened to have some free time. Based on my impressions from that night, I have been buying Lonnie Smith CDs ever since, hoping to recapture some of that excitement. I don’t think I’ll ever entirely succeed, but Live At Club Mozambique comes close.
In 1971, Lonnie Smith was under the spell of James Brown and Sly Stone, like a lot of people were. As a result, Live At Club Mozambique is a swirl of R&B, funk, and post bop, which is kind of cool. Lonnie Smith even sings on a couple of tunes. Smith’s got a thin reedy voice, but he’s got the feeling down cold. On Peace of Mind, Lonnie Smith tells us more than you’ll want to know about his expectations and attitudes about women — I love it!
Smith has got an unusually large band behind him for a club date: Dave Hubbard on tenor, Ronnie Cuber on bari sax, George Benson on guitar, Joe Dukes on drums, Clifford Mack on tambourine, and Gary Jones on congas.
Lonnie Smith and his band do really well with the post bop tunes, too. The highlight of the set is Lonnie Smith’s original, Expressions, a sort of answer to Coltrane’s Impressions, that’s unusual for the inclusion of Ronnie Cuber’s baritone sax solo. Lonnie whips the band into a frenzy with his organ comping. George Benson and Dave Hubbard also contribute burning solos. Lonnie Smith saves the best for last with a killer turn on organ. This is pretty high level work, folks.
Seven Steps to Heaven gets an aggressive workout, too.
The balance of Live At Club Mozambique is a combination of blues and greasy funk.
Listening to Lonnie Smith: Live At Club Mozambique, you get a feel for the heady musical atmosphere of the times, when jazz was splintering into a million pieces. Anything was possible. Dig it.