Here we are midweek, and I have some great news. I’ll be opening up for Joss Stone on August 29th at the Stone Pony here in Asbury Park, NJ. It’s a great event put on by Barefoot Wine, benefiting The Surfrider Foundation. It’s a free show, just click the Barefoot link to sign up. 21+ please. I’ve had kind of a stressful week, so today I bring you some Jazz Fusion, brought to you courtesy of a Jazz legend, Lonnie Liston Smith. Here he is with the Cosmic Echoes and “Goddess of Love” on the Flying Dutchman label from 1976.
Lonnie Liston Smith was born in Richmond, VA in 1940. He was basically born into music, as his father was a member of Gospel Harmonizing Four. There were frequent visitors during his childhood, and not the usual ones. How about Same Cooke and the Soul Stirrers just popping on in? He started to play piano as a teen, but idolized players such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. It was horn players he took his style from, not traditional pianists. He could appreciate the greats of the time (McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, and others), but wanted to have a style all his own. He started playing gigs while still a teen, and would back up such luminaries such as Betty Carter and Ethyl Ennis. He moved on to college at Morgan State and played with future Jazz stars Mickey Bass, Gary Bartz and Grachan Moncur. Bass was playing with Art Blakey at the time, which led Smith to a gig in NYC with The Jazz Messengers. He would also play with Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Max Roach. This high profile gigging raised his status in the Jazz world. Smith would play in probably the most important sideman time in his entire career when he moved over to gig with Pharoah Sanders. His sessions on Karma released on Impulse! are unbelievable, and if you don’t own that record, I suggest you pick it up. Lonnie Liston Smith’s sideman work also reached another pinnacle with Miles Davis’s On the Corner and Big Fun. His use of the electric piano/ organ (said to be introduced to him by Davis himself), forever changed his sound. This sound captured Bob Theile’s ear and Smith got signed to Flying Dutchman, where he released such classics as Expansions (“like two sealed copies of Expansions” – Mike D, Professor Booty), Astral Traveling, and Cosmic Funk. Smith stayed busy and his association with Theile moved him on to RCA and Columbia up until the late 70’s. He continued to tour with the who’s who of the Jazz world: Gato Barbieri, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Clarke, Roy Ayers, and more. The 90’s saw Smith collaborate with Hip Hop legend Guru for his Jazzmatazz series, as well as Phyllis Hyman and others. He continues to make music today. His sound may have mellowed a bit, but he is still a legend.
The original line up of the Cosmic Echoes included Smith on keyboards, George Barron, soprano and tenor sax, Joe Beck guitar, Cecil McBee bass, David Lee Jr. drums, James Mtume percussion, Sonny Morgan percussion, Badal Roy tabla drums, and Geeta Vashi, tamboura. However they definitely had personnel changes throughout their career. On Cosmic Echoes, Donald Smith was added as a vocalist. Later Echoes included Dave Hubbard on tenor and soprano sax, Ronald Miller on electric guitar, Hollywood Barker on drums, and Al Anderson on electric bass. On this particular track, Smith gets kind of spacey ( the beginning sounds a bit like a track off the new Lee Fields record “Ladies” ) , and just kinds of rolls along throughout. It’s got a solid groove, with Smith’s keyboard work dominating throughout, and a myriad of percussion adding some flavor to a sick little drum beat and bass line. Like I said, this a great track to unwind to, and if you’re having a stressful week like me, open a bottle of wine, bring out a book, and just chill. I’ll see you Friday. If you’re in the Asbury Park, NJ area, stop by the World Famous Asbury Lanes for another installment of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions. Special Guest Primitive Sound System Pat James Longo. Keep Diggin’!