Dr. Lonnie Smith-All In My Mind.

Label: Blue Note Records.

Forty-six years after he left Blue Note Records, Dr. Lonnie Smith returned in 2016 and released a new studio album Evolution. It was released to critical acclaim and marked the homecoming of the last of the great soul-jazz organists.

His career began in 1960, and in the Dr. Lonnie Smith was about to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday by recording a live album at the Jazz Standard in New York City with his Trio. It was producer by Don Was, the Blue Note Records’ President. 

Joining the veteran Hammond organist were drummer Jonathan Blake and guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg. They had been playing together for many years and formed a formidable partnership. That would become apparent when they took to the stage that night and showcased their considerable skills. The set was recorded, and became the live album All In My Mind. It was originally released in 2018, and has just been reissued as part of Blue Note Records’ Tone Poet series. This is a welcome reissue, and according to Dr. Lonnie Smith is much more representative of him as a musician.

“When I’m playing live, the people get exactly what I’m about. When you do studio work, they have a tendency to want you to record over and over again, but you can mess up the song and make it sound very mechanical.” Dr. Lonnie Smith would rather his band plays with freedom, feeling, honesty and sincerity.“That’s what I want, I want exactly what you feel at that moment when you’re playing it. Of course, people say I could have done a better job or there’s a mistake here, but who cares? It’s all about the feeling, and I want to hear that feeling.” That was the case when All In My Mind was recorded.

The set opens with a smoking cover Wayne Shorter’s Juju. It’s Jonathan Kreisberg’s fluid freewheeling crystalline guitar that takes centrestage which he plays effortlessly. When Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Hammond organ enters he’s not to be outdone as his fingers fly up and down the keyboard as subtitles and nuances of the original melody. Later, drummer Jonathan Blake powers his way round then kit during a stunning solo as the guitar plays a supporting role before the maestro returns and stamps his soul-jazz sound on this modal classic.

The tempo drops on Devika which initially has an understated sound as a chirping, spacious guitar meanders as the distant Hammond swirls and wheezes. Meanwhile, drummer Jonathan Blake caresses his kit as the guitar and Hammond move centrestage and play starring roles. The tempo and volume briefly increase before returning to a much more understated sound, and is dreamy, beautiful and ruminative before it reaches a crescendo.

Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover might seem an unusual inclusion, but it’s been part of his sets for many years. As it unfolds, Jonathan Kreisberg’s chirping, crystalline guitar plays the melody. Joe Dyson replaces drummer Jonathan Blake and his drums have a ratty sound. However, his funky, syncopated breaks combines well with what’s one of Dr. Lonnie Smith’s best solos. Fleet-fingered and funky he puts fifty-seven years of experience to good use as the Trio reinvent this classic which veers between languid and laid-back to funny and soulful.

Very different is the rendition of Tadd Dameron’s On A Misty Night. It’s a slow, spacious and understated sounding track. Less is more and nobody overplays. Instead they play within themselves on what’s a beautiful, sensuous, expressive and emotive reading of this classic.

A jaunty rework of Up Jumped Spring closes All In My Mind. There’s a playfulness as the veteran organist’s fingers glide and dance up and down the keyboard. Other times he jabs and stabs the keyboard adding a degree of drama. As he works his way through the gears, Jonathan Blake and Jonathan Kreisberg match the maestro every step of the way. They prove the perfect foil on what’s a flawless cover of this Freddie Hubbard composition that closes the album on resounding high.

Dr. Lonnie Smith’s 2018 album All In My Mind was his second album since he returned home to Blue Note Records after a forty-six year absence. He was by then, the last great soul-jazz organist, and showcases his considerable talent and versatility on the album. 

Joining him in the Trio were Jonathan Blake and Jonathan Kreisberg who play their part in the sound and success of All In My Mind. Both are outstanding musicians, and without them, it wouldn’t be the same album. They were augmented by drummer Joe Dyson who plays on Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover. Good as he is, and he’s a talented and inventive drummer he won’t unseat Jonathan Blake anytime soon. The current trio gel perfectly and the chemistry between them resulted in what’s one of the best albums Dr. Lonnie Smith released in a number of years. 

The big question is does it deserve to be part of Blue Note Records’ Tone Poet Series? Looking at the recent instalments like Herbie Hancock’s The Prisoner, Hank Mobley’s Poppin’, Grant Green’s Nigeria and Lee Morgan’s The Cooker are all jazz classics. So were Andrew Hill’s Black Fire, Stanley Turrentine’s Hustlin’,Dexter Gordon’s Clubhouse, Grant Green’s Born To Be Blue and Wayne Shorter’s Etcetera which were all released in 2019 as part of the Tone Poet Series. Does All In My Mind belong amongst what are classic albums?  

That begs the question is All In My Mind a classic album? Personally, I don’t think it is although it’s one of the best jazz albums released in 2018 and on Blue Note Records over the past few years. Maybe that is why it’s been included in the Tone Poet Series?  

All In My Mind  one of the best jazz albums released during 2018, and is All In My Mind is also one the best albums that Dr. Lonnie Smith has released in the past couple of decades. He rolls back the years on All In My Mind which is the latest instalment in Blue Note Records’ Tone Poet Series, which is also a reminder why Dr. Lonnie Smith is regarded as one of the greatest Hammond organists of his generation.

Dr. Lonnie Smith-All In My Mind.

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