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Rise Up!

Dr. Lonnie Smith

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Recensione album

Who says you have to slow down as you get older? The honorable B-3 master, Dr. Lonnie Smith, has been on a renaissance tear since the beginning of the 21st century. Rise Up! is the fifth new recording since 2000, and there have been a number of reissues of his older work to boot. Given that some artists issue a record a year, this may not seem like such a terrific feat — but appearances are deceiving. Smith recorded only 13 albums between 1966 and 1996, so five in nine years is actually prolific. It's not only the quantity, however, it's the consistency of the quality of the records Smith has been releasing that is outstanding, and Rise Up! is no exception.

Ever since 2000's Turbanator and 2003's Boogaloo to Beck: A Tribute, Smith has packed his records with covers and originals that accent the "soul" in the deep, wide tradition of soul-jazz. Sure, he's funky, he's got chops, grooves, and tricks, and he's surrounded himself with compelling musicians from Jimmy Ponder to David "Fathead" Newman to great effect. Since 2003 he's been working with guitarist and producer Matt Balitsaris and the results have been, and remain, electrifying. This set, with guitarist Peter Bernstein, saxophonist Donald Harrison, and drummer Herlin Riley — with extra help on a couple of cuts from Balitsaris and percussionist James Shipp — is one of his most realized, funky, and resonant dates yet. The set jumps off with Smith's original "Matterapat,"showcasing the smoking Latin percussion of Shipp and taut, off-kilter breaks from Riley, the front line is all knotty soul and blues. The theme is greasy and in the pocket; Harrison's solo moves effortlessly from post-bop to soul. The cover of the Beatles' "Come Together" that follows is even nastier, with Smith's below-the-basement vocal growl on the first verse all but indecipherable except as a snarling rap. It's another instrument in this band's arsenal. This is a slow bump and funky grind with a big payoff. "Pilgrimage" begins as a ballad but quickly asserts itself as a cooker thanks to Riley playing counterpoint breaks to Smith's B-3. Other covers that appear — and are reinvented in Smith's musical vocabulary — are the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams," which commences, seemingly, as an astral afterthought but finds a deep percussive bottom end and a spooky articulation of the melody that is all rhythm based. One can guarantee that the version of "People Make the World Go 'Round" found here is unlike any other that exists. It's the longest cut on the set and builds itself right from a lithe, breezy funk groove with a poppin' set of rimshot breakbeats from Riley. Harrison is the perfect foil for Smith because of his lyric sensibility; it is the perfect counter to the percussive groove quotient of Smith. The solos here are wonderfully complex and sophisticated and the use of harmonic extension in the ensemble's reading is pure magic. The set ends on an atmospheric blues tip with Smith's "Voodoo Doll," where Harrison's alto plays it straight out of the noir-ish dark and into the shadows where traces of light emerge. Smith's comping and eventually structural form for the tune transforms it into a swirling, shimmering heat with Bernstein's guitar erecting a pulsing bridge for Riley. It's a killer way to end a record. For B-3 fans, Rise Up! is nothing but solid in terms of tunes, arrangements, and heat.

Biografie

Nato(a): 03 luglio 1942, Buffalo, NY

Genere: Jazz

Anni di attività: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Organist Lonnie Smith has often been confused with keyboardist/pianist Lonnie Liston Smith — and, in fact, more than a few retailers have wrongly assumed that they're one and the same. In the mid-'60s, the Hammond hero earned recognition for his membership in George Benson's classic quartet before going on to play with Lou Donaldson (contributing some memorable solos to the alto saxman's hit 1967 album Alligator Bogaloo) and recording enjoyable dates of his own for Blue Note. For all their...
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Rise Up!, Dr. Lonnie Smith
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