Critic's Choice

The "Incredible" Jimmy Smith, Saturday, October 9, will likely cement a contemporary adage in the jazz world when he caresses the keys of the Hammond organ on stage at the Gothic Theatre. From purist circles to the smoky environs of El Chapultepec, you can hear an oft-whispered philosophy: "There ain't a way anyone can do it like they used to." Truly, the glory days of jazz passed like a fleeting moment from the Forties to the Sixties, and many icons from jazz's golden age passed away years ago. A handful of greats remain, and Smith is among them. He revolutionized the music community by removing the organ from the confines of the orchestra and bringing it to the forefront of a jazz setting. Since his first release, The Champ, in 1956, Smith has cultivated and popularized the organ with his trademark walking bass lines, left-handed accompaniment and right-handed solos. In his recordings (103 of them in only 74 years), delicious accents and pregnant harmonies reveal Smith's insight into the instrument's hidden potential. Using enriched church tones, a bebop environment and a self-taught style, Smith continues to create an energetic, bluesy jazz gospel that promises to get the crowd swinging. Saturday night offers the chance to catch a glimpse of a still-vibrant musician who, unlike most of his contemporaries, is more than just an endeared memory pressed on 180-grain vinyl. -- Mike Engstrom


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