CD REVIEW: Lucky Peterson - Tribute to Jimmy Smith



Lucky Peterson - Tribute to Jimmy Smith (Jazz Village 9570135. CD review by Mark McKergow)

American multi-instrumentalist Lucky Peterson focuses on Hammond B3 organ for this lively collection of tunes made famous by Jimmy Smith which appears ahead of his UK tour.

Peterson has a lifetime of performing on guitar and keyboards behind him with soul, blues and R&B legends such as Willie Dixon, Etta James, Bobbie Bland and Mavis Staples, as well as leading his own groups. For his latest recordings on the French Jazz Village label he has chosen to feature the music of organ legend Jimmy Smith, mostly self-penned, some dozen or so years after Smith’s death. The basis of the band is (of course) a strong organ trio, with Peterson joined by Herlin Riley on drums and the unfortunately (and entirely inappropriately) named young American guitarist Kelyn Crapp.

The repertoire will be familiar to Smith enthusiasts and indeed anyone with an interest in organ jazz.  The lolloping groove of Night Train, which opens the album, feels like being enveloped in a warm and generous towelling dressing gown by a warm fire, so comfortable does it feel.  On this and the other numbers, Peterson wisely resists the temptation to generate excitement by going for fast tempos, instead letting the bounce and shuffle of the rhythm section do the work.  The Sermon is similarly unrushed, with some fancy footwork from Riley moving the pulse around.  The band’s take on Misty, more closely associated with Smith’s rival Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes, starts at a very measured pace before neatly doubling up for the solos.

Some of the tracks feature guest contributions – French trumpeter Nicolas Folmer adds some bite as well as a fluid solo on Night Train, while Philippe Petrucciani (brother of late lamented pianist Michel) adds a beautiful warm guitar tone to Blues For Wes.  It’s a surprise to find saxophone legend Archie Shepp adding not only wailing tenor sax but also vocal contributions on Jimmy Wants To Groove and Back At The Chicken Shack.  Shepp has not been very visible over the past few years, and on this showing that’s probably, sadly, for the best.

Taken all in all this well-executed CD is both a great tribute to Jimmy Smith and a reminder of how organ jazz is one of the distinctive sub-genres of this music, combining some of the shake and rattle of rock & roll with the grunt of blues and the dexterity of jazz.

You can check it out more closely in January 2018 as Lucky Peterson brings his band to Ronnie Scott’s (18-20 January) followed by gigs in Skegness, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Shipley and Basingstoke.
LINK: More details and a preview video are HERE.

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