Jimmy Smith in Grand Form at the Baby Grand
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 07/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the recent Blue Note RVG Edition titles are reissued, remastered titles that simply have been out of print on CD for a time. By contrast, both volumes of Jimmy Smith's "Live at the Baby Grand" have never been available domestically on disc until now, a most welcome release indeed! Recorded on April 4, 1956, in the jazz hotbed (?) of Wilmington, Delaware (my birthplace, BTW), this is the organist at his raw, jaw-dropping best. You really do get the feeling of what those original jazz fans and curiousity seekers must have felt when first going to a Jimmy Smith show -- the Charlie Parker of the organ, let's see what the buzz is all about! While these sessions do a marvelous job of capturing that energy, they also have their shortcomings. In order to get that great live feel, a certain muddiness does come to the forefront at times on certain tunes, particularly when Smith plays those extended left hand chords during his solos, which I have to say get tedious at times -- revolutionary back then, a bit humdrum now. Also make no mistake, this is the Jimmy Smith show, and guitarist Thornel Schwartz and drummer Donald Bailey are simply along for the ride, with minimal contributions and an often distant placement in the mix. And while I'm being critical, let me also mention that each CD logs in at around 45 minutes, just long enough so that these volumes could not be squeezed on to one CD. But still Blue Note should have done something -- released this RVG as a value-priced two-fer, or uncovered some additional bonus tracks in the vaults (come on Cuscuna!) -- to make it more substantial than the original vinyl. However, these are minor quibbles with a set that I am delighted to see back in print."