Online since August 2002

Pushing tradition forward

Reviewed August 2006

Jungle Soul
Jungle Soul
By Dr. Lonnie Smith

Palmetto Records: 2006

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

The music we call "jazz" has a reputation – mostly, I suspect, with people who aren't jazz fans – of being a "cerebral" listening experience. There's some truth to the argument, especially when you compare America's original art form to most of the popular music floating around. But organ trio format – Hammond B3 organ/guitar/drums – never seems to fall into that "cerebral" category. Funky – yes. In the groove – most definitely. Cool as hell, bluesy and often down and dirty – yes indeed. It's a visceral thing, a sound that gets you in the gut.

And there is no finer practitioner of the organ trio game than Dr. Lonnie Smith, a pioneering B3 player who got his break playing with guitarist George Benson back in the '60s. Dr. Smith has released more than thirty albums in his career, most recently focusing on "tribute discs," honoring the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Beck.

With "Jungle Soul," the Hammond B3 master serves up a more open-ended set, mixing in some African grooves with familiar jazz standards, putting some dark soul into the American Songbook classic, "Willow Weep for Me," and tinting Thelonious Monk's usually playful "Bemsha Swing" with a soulful wash.

The disc's title tune churns and rumbles like a thunder cloud, laid-back yet ominous, and deep in the groove; while the closer, "Jungle Wisdom," features Smith crafting marimba-like vibes on his B3 in front of a subtle, shuffling rhythm, a song that sounds ancient and thoroughly modern at the same time.

"Jungle Soul" is one of those rare discs that honors the jazz tradition – the organ trio sound, in this case – while pushing the tradition into the future in a fascinating fashion. Listen to it with your gut and soul.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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