Jimmy Smith – Back At The Chicken Shack [1960]


“slow-burning groove” – Dave Hammerschlag

Jimmy Smith redefined the Hammond B-3 organ as a centerpiece of soul-jazz, rather than part of the accompaniment. In all of his work, the soothing growl of the B-3 and vibrating hum of the Leslie speaker are brought to the forefront, demanding a mellow mood, and emanating a soulful “Hammond” quality. Smith’s virtuosity in composition, improvisation, and technical skill brought this Hammond sound to prominence through his Billboard-charting records, and led to a generation of Hammond jazz players mimicking his sound. Jon Lord of Deep Purple and modern Hammond master John Medeski were both heavily influenced by Smith’s style. Later in his career, Jimmy Smith played B-3 on the title track of Michael Jackson’s Bad.

This album and, more specifically, this song is his magnum opus. Backed by the great Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax, this record defined Smith’s blues-based, bebop-influenced, soul jazz style.  Keep in mind, no bass player on this recording; Smith is playing the main musical line with the right hand, and the bassline with the left hand and foot pedals.

As a final note, Smith has some of my favorite album covers in the biz, often vibrant, heavily-saturated photos of mundane life.

- JS