Jimmy Smith, Jazz organist extraordinaire, died last week. I was introduced to him first passively, hearing him at home as a child, played on my parents’ stereo, not knowing who he was. I have distinct memories of his music, starting with The Organ Grinder’s Swing, which made a huge impression on me already in my pre-teen days.
I “rediscovered” Jimmy as a college student visiting Africa for the first time, through a Ghanaian guy named Paani Laryea who lived in Abidjan and had a big jazz collection, Paani pulled out a new JS album, whose name I can’t remember, as if it was contraband. It was a slick, somewhat overproduced affair, but like everything he did on the B-3 Hammond organ, it swung, and it rocked, and it had a propulsive power that seemed almost to bespeak of possession.
Thanks to Paani, I began to raid the used LP bins of the record stores for other JS stuff. Nothing of his, however, surpasses the raw power of The Organ Grinder’s Swing, though, which you can sample through the NPR link below.