Home Cookin’: The Incredible Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith Home Cookin' cover-2

Why should I bother with this:- Jimmy Smith pretty much led the way in popularising the Hammond organ in a jazz setting. A superb blues set featuring the seldom recorded Percy France on tenor sax. Smith, Burrell and France play with great feeling to compliment each other perfectly. Fairly laid back- but just put it on in company and just wait for somebody to ask what this great music is.

The band etc:- Jimmy Smith (Hammond organ); Percy France (tenor sax); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Donald Bailey (drums). Recorded 15 July 1958, May 24 1959 and June 16 1959. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Ira Gitler. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4050.

The Music:- “Oh no! Not more of that harpsichord thing” is a sentence that I’ve heard on numerous occasions. The world is divided between those who like and those who loathe the Hammond organ. This is a set that will delight the believers and win over converts, with its exquisite proclamations of the blues.

See See Rider is the delightfully restrained and slow-paced opener; a track for the small hours. Not a note is wasted by any of the three soloists with Percy France’s second short solo and his interplay with Smith afterwards being especially good. The following YouTube posting is courtesy of nagusd

France sits out for Sugar Hill with the trio also offering a simmering version of the Ray Charles hit I Got A Woman. Side one of the album closes with Messin’ Around, a slightly faster paced vehicle.

Gracie, another mid-paced blues opens the second half with an extended opportunity for France and Burrell to play compelling evocative solos.

Ira Gitler’s 1959 sleeve notes on the second track date badly when he writes words advising ‘men’ to ‘…use this track with caution on bashful females’. You can be the judge of whether Come on Baby should be only available on licence by listening to it yourself although as of 2 May 2017 it was unavailable at YouTube.

The album closes with Motorin Along, which is an apt title for a track which conjures up an image the open road, perhaps an imagined New England Turnpike, with your foot pressing on the accelerator. The sleeve recounts how Jimmy Smith used an old hearse to carry his organ and its essential Leslie speakers from gig to gig. Apparently, however, hearses were banned from thruways and turnpikes unless they were being used for their usual purpose. The story goes that drummer Donald Bailey was the regular nominated corpse, most memorably when the hearse had to travel to the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival.

I’ve found it rather hard to find a first pressing or early Blue Note copy of Home Cookin’ that hasn’t had the life played out of it, itself a marker of what a great album it is. However, I’ve currently got a pre-Liberty vinyl pressing that sounds great. This is one of those recordings where it is worth getting hold of the CD, which has a further five tracks, of which Apostrophe, a Percy France tour de force with a marked nod to Charlie Parker’s influence is well worth hearing.

Lots of people really like the cover. I think it is good but not that special. However, I highly commend the music contained within and hope you will enjoy it too.

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