If you look at the inside of a Hammond B-3 organ, it’s like a miracle,” marvels Dr. Lonnie Smith. “It’s like something from Thomas Edison. The makers are geniuses.”
Takes one to know one.
The soul-jazz maestro, 75, remains a mesmerizing performer and B-3 wizard. Turban-wrapped with a long white beard, the Western New Yorker looks the part of a mystic. Like his groove-filled music, he proves easy to connect with.
“When I came to Blue Note [Records], I had been playing behind all these Motown-type groups: Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, the Impressions,” he explains. “I love that kind of music, so I took some of that grease into Blue Note and had a slow funky thing that I stayed with for a while.”
Playing alongside Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan, and George Benson, Smith rolled that slow funky thing to a boil on a series of stellar LPs for the classic jazz imprint, starting with 1968’s Think!
“I get that inside my body when I play it,” he says of the organ. “It’s like electricity. It’s like fire. It burns through you. Everything runs hot while I’m playing. I’m totally out of it, into space. I’m gone. I don’t get that from any other instrument. It just hugs and grabs you. It’s warm. There’s nothing like it.”
Dr. Smith, who is self-taught and plays by ear, leads a live trio that must stay nimble.
“What happens if I throw a curve at you, or you throw a curve at me? Are you able to respond to that? What do you do now? You got to watch and listen, keep your ears open. It’s so beautiful when you’re doing it right.
“Each and every one of us has a story to tell, and that’s what you have to do. You have to play life. Not just notes, but life.”
Fri., Sept. 29, 8:30pm