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The Inimitable Jimmy Smith, One Cool Cat

Jimmy Smith’s ‘The Cat’ cuts through grease like fresh battery acid.

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Jimmy Smith The-Cat

According to DJ Al Collins of KSFO in San Francisco writing in the liner notes of this fabulous album, “Jimmy Smith’s The Cat cuts through grease like fresh battery acid.” Fact is it’s hard to disagree. Recorded over two days at Rudi Van Gelder’s Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on two, separate, late April days in 1964 it simply buzzes with excitement from the opening bars of Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Theme From ‘Joy House’’ and doesn’t let up until the moody, and sheer sexiness, of ‘Blues In The Night.’

If you know someone who says they don’t get Jimmy Smith, just play them The Cat. Released on 14 September 1964, it is consummate Hammond B3 playing with the added vibrancy of Lalo Schifrin’s arrangements for big band. ‘Basin Street Blues’ eschews 1960s’ sophistication, while the appropriately super cool ‘Delon’s Blues’ is dedicated to the French actor Alain Delon, who Smith had befriended while on tour in Europe in 1963.

Listen to The Cat right now.

Schifrin also conducts the big band that backs Smith and it includes, among others, trumpeters, Thad Jones and Ernie Royal, Grady Tate on drums and Kenny Burrell on guitar. Such was the effect of The Cat it made No.12 on the Billboard Pop charts where it stayed for well over half a year…almost unheard of for a jazz album. The title track also made the lower reaches of the Hot 100.

It’s still proving influential with the album’s title track having been sampled by both Pizzicato 5 on ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ and The Orb’s, ‘Perpetual Dawn (Ultrabass 2).’

Reviewers upon both the album’s release and since have been somewhat patronizing in accusing Smith of being ‘too commercial’, as though this is some kind of crime and if he were a real jazz artist he would avoid such a thing. This is a joyful, fabulous album that probably got more people listening to jazz than many of its contemporaries.

The Cat can be bought here.

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