Monday, September 20, 2010

Beyond Jimmy Smith

The Hammond organ, electric guitar and drums combo that brought Jimmy Smith to fame in the mid-1950s needed a kick in the pants by the time the Seventies rolled around. Larry Young's groundbreaking work with the Tony Williams Lifetime on the 1969 release "Emergency!" was certainly a sonic declaration that the rules had dramatically changed for the basic organ trio. Applying Rock-era energy and amplification to the mix, Williams, Young and John McLaughlin emphatically stated that the good old ballad-blues-and bop days were a done deal.
"Timeless" a one-off 1974 project that united guitarist and leader John Abercrombie, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and keyboardist Jan Hammer (here relying on the Hammond) certainly draws on a post-"Emergency!" vibe, but also takes its own swerves in the road. As befits an ECM project of the time, there's a more ethereal quality to the music. "Ralph's Piano Waltz" inhabits a spacious sonic landscape that evokes mystery and drama. There's a haunting ebb and flow to the piece, enhanced by DeJohette's brilliant sense of dynamics. And that unexpected bridge -- the hook of the tune -- gets you every time.

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