Well it looks like the Winter blast is all but over and the warmer weather is here. You know what that means: Digging. I originally was dig in some crates in West Philadelphia today, but plans fell through, and here I am writing about some Jazz. I’m looking forward to getting back to the Spot, grabbing some gems, and bringing them to you. Today I wanted to bring out a side that I’ve of course been sitting on for quite some time. I have some plans of doing some sort of Hammond tribute in the future, however, I don’t think I can do it justice like my man Larry from Funky 16 Corners, although I’m gonna give it a go eventually. So let’s get into some Friday Soul Jazz with Johnny “Hammond” Smith and “Dirty Apple” from the Prestige Records 45.
Born John Robert Smith in 1933 in Louisville, Kentucky, Johnny Hammond went on to earn his the nickname of the very instrument he became famous for playing. As a child he drew his inspiration while playing piano from players like Art Tatum and Bud Powell, but it wasn’t until he relocated to Cleveland, OH that he decided to make the big switch to organ. His reason, Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett. This descision to switch to the organ would change Smith’s career. His gigs progressed from collaborating with Nancy Wilson to a band leader on Jazz label Prestige. His affiliation with Prestige would last a decade plus, until 1970. His 18 plus releases on Prestige included Black Coffee, The Stinger, Soul Talk, Dirty Grape, and more. If Prestige solidified Smith (who later dropped the Smith and went by Johnny Hammond), as a true Soul Jazz player ( although he was severely underrated), his switch to Kudu/ CTI and a more funky style in the early 70’s made more people notice. I will admit that I was introduced kind of backwards to Hammond through his association with Creed Taylor, CTI, and it’s extended family. “Shifting Gears” and the Lp Breakout caught my ear and then I just had to get my hands on anything the guy put out. Hammond’s collaborations with the Mizell Brothers on Gambler’s Life on Salvation and Gears on Milestone are legendary. His signature Funk style came into maturation, and he would go on to experiment with some electric as well as acoustic pianos on these records. While at CTI as well, he was surrounded by all these great players, players like Hank Crawford, Eric Gale, Grover Washington, Billy Cobham, and more. I’m sure this really fostered his Funk style, as these session players (who were accomplished players in their own right) most likely pushed each other to their best. Hammond recorded sporadically until the late 70’s, made a brief comback in the late 80’s, but unfortunately died of Cancer in 1997. A true underrated hero of the Hammond Organ.
“Dirty Apple” almost comes off initially as a Blues number, with Wally Richardson’s guitar part in the beginning. To me it seems like “Tramp” could’ve ripped off that intro. It’s slow, but tell me if you don’t hear the similarity. Next comes Earl Edwards or Huston Person (not sure who go the nod here) on tenor saxophone, just chugging along. Out of nowhere, Hammond’s subtle organ intro creeps in and the Soul Jazz slowly takes over. While Jimmy Lewis on the bass and John Harris on drums keep it in the pocket, Hammond does his thing, and does it well. He hadn’t yet got too Funky, but this record was well on it’s way. The flip side is main Theme from N.Y.P.D the television show. The man was making moves way back when. Hope you enjoyed this one, Keep Diggin’!