After some time in the Navy, Smith used the GI Bill to study bass at the Hamilton School, then piano and theory at the Orenstein School of Music. These studies provided a foundation for what would become his signature approach to the organ, which he began playing moonlighting as a member of Don Gardner's Sonotones band. Smith practiced alone and faithfully every day until he had "tamed the beast". His attack is patterned after horn players, not other keyboard players. He always wanted the instrument to stalk and growl- to literally leap out at the listener.
Smith made his debut at the CafÃ© Bohemia in 1956, followed by gigs at Birdland and a memorable 1957 Newport Jazz Festival appearance that had tongues wagging. He made his recording debut playing with Kenny Burrell on a Blue Note date that led to his first album as a leader for the label, A New Sound...A new Star...Jimmy Smith At The Organ Volume 1. This was followed by a string of LPs that includes The Sermon, Midnight Special, and Back At The Chicken Shack.
Jimmy Smith first signed to Verve in the mid-'60s, recording ground breaking sides like "Walk on the Wild Side," "Respect," and a collaboration with Wes Montgomery, The Dynamic Duo. At a time, he was described as , "...so far out in front of the other Hammond organists, he's lonesome!" After breaking with the label in the early '70s, Smith recorded for several companies, including Milestone and Elektra Musician. However, he returned to his home at Verve in 1994, in time for its televised 50th Anniversary Celebration at Carnegie Hall.
Jimmy's latest album, Dot Com Blues was released in 2001 to tremendous reviews. The album showcases Smith's trademark Hammond sounds along with contributions from special guests, B.B. King, Etta James, Dr. John, Taj Mahal, and Keb Mo, among others. Raves from other musical legends include: "There's only ever been one B3 player"- Gregg Allman , "Jimmy Smith is a pioneer. He is a true musical legend."-Diana Krall, "Jimmy is the indisputable champ of the jazz organ"-George Benson, "Jimmy's recording of 'All Night Long' changed my thinking about how an organ could sound in Blues rather than church. That record really opened my eyes. He's great!"
Tickets for Jimmy Smith at The Crossroads are on sale now at The Crossroads of Garwood, 78 North Ave (908) 232-5666. One show only at 7:30 pm. With the Radam Schwartz Quartet opening