Tuesday, February 21, 2012
40 Years Ago This Month: Jimmy Smith records Root Down
[Get Your Root Down]
You can credit Hammond B3 master Jimmy Smith with transporting the nerdy organ from the back of churches and skating rinks to the front of the soul jazz stage. His 1963 album Back At The Chicken Shack is a Blue Note label classic.
On a single February night in 1972, Smith recorded his funkiest album, Root Down, at a Los Angeles club. The funk came-- in large part-- from his young supporting crew, inspired by the sounds playing on the radio. Witness guitarist Arthur Adams's wah-wah guitar. Other musicians included drummer Paul Humphrey, percussionist Buck Clarke and , most surprisingly, bass player Wilton Felder of The Crusaders. "Most surprisingly" because Jimmy Smith preferred to play the bass lines himself...on the B3's 25 foot pedals. Most of Smith's jazz albums are more laid back affairs, closer to Root Down's cover of Al Green's then chart climbing hit "Let's Stay Together". But on this night the godfather of the modern soul-jazz organ and his bandmembers brought the funk to the house. (Verve's newly remastered album presents the full unedited versions ... sometimes doubling the length of the tracks.)
The Beastie Boys sampled multiple parts of the title cut on their 1995 single "Root Down" which appeared on Ill Communication.