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You Better See Jimmy Smith Soon if You Can


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Hi All,

Well, I caught the Jimmy Smith quintet the other night here in Los Angeles, and I must say that it was some of the saddest shit I have ever seen in my life.

For the record, let me state that I love Jimmy Smith, and have seen him every time he has played in LA over the past few years I've lived here. Sure he can be cranky, and is sometimes beligerant to the audience (some of the "fans" deserve the abuse, IMHO), but he usually puts on a damn fine show. I know he's getting older and usually doesn't play the entire set, but I respect that and just expect that he'll lay low and sit out a couple of numbers every time I see him.

And, for some reason, I always get the same table right up front, just off of Jimmy's left. Seriously, I get the exact same table, no matter how early or late I drop by the club (I would attribute it to fate, but I'd rather attribute it to the fact that Manny at Catalina's is always as cool as shit to me!). So, I usually get to see Jimmy's behaviors during the set that most other people don't see (the way he sits at the organ, his body language, his facial features, etc.) especially when the other cats are soloing. Over the years, I've been able to predict the nights when Jimmy would be "on", and when he would have his bad sets, just by watching him approach the organ.

But Saturday night, man.... After about a half hour of the other members of the band playing extended versions of "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Watermelon Man", Jimmy still wasn't on the stage. The group then broke in to "Back at the Chicken Shack", I think in the hopes that Jimmy would finally appear. He did appear, and I was shocked at what I saw. The man could barely move, and had to literally be helped to the organ. He took a couple of minutes to sit down, and then vamped a little bit on "Chicken Shack".

After the song ended, he announced to the crowd that he'd been sick and that his back was sore, and then he was helped in to a chair next to the organ. The rest of the band left the stage while the guitar player did a long unaccompanied number... with poor Jimmy just sitting in the chair on the back of the stage! It was bizarre, to say the least. Jimmy kept nodding in and out of consciousness during the tune, and you could tell he was hurting pretty bad.

The set resumed with the quintet playing a couple more numbers, but Jimmy wasn't playing much at all - just the ocassional vamp. The whole time, he just kept staring at me, and I must have had a shocked look on my face throughout the entire set. I teared up a couple of times, because it was clear (to me anyway) that this was the last time I was going to see this great musician play. Toward the end of the last tune, Jimmy asked me what time it was, and after I told him he stopped the set and slowly walked to the back with the help of a couple of people.

After the club was pretty much empty, I had a chance to talk to one of the members of the group briefly, and he was so apologetic. I could tell he was embarrased by what happened that night, and when I mentioned that I thought Jimmy wasn't long for this mortal coil, he just gave me that little nod, you know?

I hope Jimmy turns it around and pulls through. But, he looked so much different than the other times I saw him that I am more than worried about him. He's one tough cat, and I hope he makes it.

If you get a chance to see him play at any time in the near future, just go. Although Jimmy wasn't really able to play, I'm still glad I had a chance to see him one more time. I'm still beating myself up over not seeing Stan Turrentine when I lived in New York... you know, I thought I'd just catch the gig the next time he was in town. But there never was a "next time"...

Anyone else see Jimmy play recently? What were your impressions? I'm hoping he is just having a bad week or two, but I sense differently.

Shane

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Thanks for the post Indestructible. I'm very,very, very sad to hear it.

I've seen Jimmy four times in the last 6 years or so. The last time, I was shocked by how different he looked (older, tired, thinner). And his energy level was very low. That was about 2 years ago. So I can't imagine what condition he would be in now.

It is very, very, very sad. But, knowing he's not touring for the money. You know he's out there, even in a frail condition, doing what he loves to do. Playing the Hammond Organ. He's tough, no doubt about it. And even though he's gruff and difficult at times, he's a great artist. No redemption necessary.

Nobody did, or will, play the organ with any greater concept, technical ability, soul, power or tenderness than Jimmy Smith. He's the water mark... forever. Unbelievable. Without Jimmy, we'd have no Larry Young, Don Patterson, McGriff, McDuff, Patton, Scott. They're all his children.

I pray he does make a recovery. If memory serves, there have been other jazzmen I've seen look very bad and then get better. Let's hope and pray that's the case for Jimmy.

He IS/WAS/and always WILL BE the greatest. :wub::tup

Edited by Soul Stream
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Guest Mnytime

One possible reason he was acting the way he was could be due to the medication that they would give him if he has a serious back injury.

For example, for me to sit through the Vandermark performance so long last night I had to take a few of my pills. And I found myself zoning a couple of times.

I am sorry to hear this.

Edited by Mnytime
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I doubt that he could handle the altitude where I'm at and I'm not sure I could handle seeing him like that.I saw Albert Collins a few months before he passed away from cancer.I don't if you ever saw Albert but when he was healthy he was a fairly solid guy but after the cancer he had pretty much wasted away.All things considered he played a fairly good set and I thought what he did under the circumstances was courageous but it still hurt too see it.

I don't know if you saw BB King on the A&E special but he sat down during his set or at least during the portions that I saw and I took that as a disturbing sign.I guess it depends on your point of view and IMO there is no right or wrong way to approach it.If you want to see Jimmy,BB or whoever play one last time that's understandable and if you don't that's understandable too.As long as it's a parting well made and all your memories are good I guess that's all that really matters in the end. :(

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For what it's worth, B.B. has been doing sets in a seated position for quite some time, I believe.  So I wouldn't drawn any conclusions from him doing that on the A&E show.

I hope you're right.

I would tend to agree. I think B.B. has been sitting down for parts of his show as far back as the early 90's. Otherwise, he actually seems to be in good shape. :D

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Guest Mnytime

Don't forget King has a serious Diabetes condition. Though I haven't heard antying lately about him being anywhere close to the condition Jimmy Smith is described being in.

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Don't forget King has a serious Diabetes condition. Though I haven't heard antying lately about him being anywhere close to the condition Jimmy Smith is described being in.

...to tell you the truth. I can't believe Jimmy or B.B. are still around in ANY condition. Much less playing gigs! I mean most of their contemporaries passed decades ago. God bless those guys, tough as nails!

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I saw Jimmy Smith at the Magic Bag in October and he played his ass off. I'm mad at him because he was in a pissy mood and I couldn't get back stage to meet him, my hero. But I am grateful I got to see him and that he was still playing well.

I didn't get to see Turrentine either. He was scheduled to play at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival on Thursday and he died the Sunday before... broke my heart.

I can't really add anything beyond what Soulstream said. Jimmy is jazz Hammond and always will be. I pray he gets better.

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Yesterday I had a friend over and I put on the tune, "My Funny Valentine" from GROOVIN AT SMALL'S PARADISE, and I asked my friend to tell me if he found it as beautiful as I did. I think he was a bit overwhelmed and couldn't come to any kind of immediate decision. Jimmy's playing on that tune is transcendental.

I'll remember it even after I'm dead. :wub:

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agreed on that version of "Valentine". Man, that is sad Jimmy is in such a condition, he's been one of my very favorite musicians since I was a kid, his form was good when I saw him at the Blue Note in '98 during the co bill with Jack McDuff, but he didn't play much. At least we have all the great recordings he's made to remember him by if he does pass soon. His playing on Joey D's "Incredible" is some of his best in years, stretching himself and showing why he really is the shining force on the B-3, despite their being other very, very good players.

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I saw Jimmy at Catalina's about three years ago in September and found that show disappointing, but not anywhere near as disturbing as what you describe. The show I attended found Jimmy in one of his "cranky" moods and his playing was terse and somewhat low-energy. He let his sidemen carry most of the load.

The crowd, however, didn't seem to care. Catalina's was the most crowded I'd ever seen it that night and they were pretty vocal in their support. Frankly, it felt like the crowd was trying to push Jimmy into giving a more energetic performance.

As I had never seen him play before, I was glad I went but came away disappointed.

btw, I agree with you about Stanley Turrentine. I passed up an opportunity to see him play at the Hollywood Bowl (a place I do NOT like to see jazz) thinking I'd catch him in a smaller venue next time and he died a few weeks later. I'm still kicking myself. Now that I think about it, I think that Hollywood Bowl gig also had Stan the Man paired with Jimmy...

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Terribly sad. We tend to think of our favourite performers as indestructable.

Although most people seem to have other favourite Smith tracks, my introduction to Smith was "Walk On The Wild Side". His blew Elmer Bernstein's right out of the water. After that, I drank in everything he recorded.

I keep forgetting that Jimmy is SEVENTY-EIGHT years old!!!!

This is not to say, God knows, that I think he's lived long enough, but it's very depressing that he can't be with us forever.

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Guest ariceffron

YEA YEA BUT DID YOU GUYS KNOW THAT BEFORE BIG JOHN PATTON PASSED AWAY HE WAS TOTALLY AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME- HE AND HIS BAND WERE EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD. LONG LIVE BIG JOHN, YOU ARE TRULY ONE OF THE GREATS OF THE 20th CENTURY

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Guest ariceffron

YOU MIND TELLING ME MR. LUNCH WHATS DUMB ABOUT MY BIG JOHN POST. IS ABSOUTLEY TRUE. ALL 6 TIMES IVE SEEN JIMMY DOESNT COMPARE TO THE ONE TIME IVE SEEN BIG JOHN.

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