Most people reading this will know the name of Johnny “Hammond” Smith, one of the great jazz organists with a large discography of solid albums on Prestige, Milestone, Kudu, and other labels. When I was involved with jazz radio in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Smith was a regular on the jazz charts and people always loved his music. He was an eclectic player who mastered soul-jazz, straight-ahead mainstream 50s/60s jazz, acid jazz, jazz funk, sensitive organ backing for vocalists such as Nancy Wilson and Etta Jones, and much more. There was a reason Mr. Smith made a lot of albums—-people enjoyed hearing them, and when he would mix a standard or a pop hit into one of his albums, people would enjoy hearing his inventive, swinging interpretations of them. He was also a pioneer in jazz-funk, worked with the legendary Mizell Brothers, and was one of the founding artists on the Kudu label. The Hammond B3-based small jazz combo is one of the classic lineups in jazz history, and it never gets old to me.
Mr. Smith took the “Hammond” nickname to avoid confusion with organist Jimmy Smith and the guitarist Johnny Smith, and to confuse matters, he also recorded in the 70’s as just plain Johnny Hammond, minus the Smith! Still, under any name, he’s right up there with Charles Earland, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Wild Bill Davis, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, etc. in the pantheon of soul-jazz organ greats…and that music never gets old. He was also a music educator, teaching at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in the later years of his long career.
Johnny Hammond Smith passed away in 1997, but his widow, Cheryl, has been working to preserve his memory (there is a website devoted to the master at http://johnnyhammondsmith.com ). Most recently, she’s started a Kickstarter campaign to issue unreleased Johnny Hammond Smith sessions on CD and vinyl, and this is a most worthy project. Widows of major jazz figures such as Art Pepper and Charles Mingus have done a lot of great work on behalf of their late husbands, since great jazz never dates, and we should help Johnny’s widow get this project off the ground. Even a modest contribution can get you a cd of the music—and Johnny Hammond Smith’s music from ANY period is always worthwhile and exciting and funky—and larger contributions can get you a T-shirt, vinyl, etc. Please consider contributing to this project. The link to the Kickstarter campaign can be found at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/182501700/johnny-hammond-smith-his-time-is-now
I’m proud to be a supporter of this project. Keep the music of the jazz organ legend alive…and more than that, help bring a NEW album of unreleased music into the world. Thanks for your support of this project…and once you make your contribution, I’m sure if you go to Amazon you can find a few Smith albums you might not already have in your collection…grab a few and brighten your day!