Jimmy Smith

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Biography


Jimmy Smith took the organ from novelty status in jazz to primary instrument status, having learned to develop bass lines with his feet, chordal accompaniment and solo lines with his right hand. Born in Norristown , Pa. , on Dec. 8, 1925, Smith started out on piano at an early age, taught by his parents as well as self-taught. In 1948, he attended the Hamilton School of Music, and he attended the Ornstein School of Music from 1948-’50. In 1951, Smith began playing the Hammond organ, subsequently developing a reputation in the Philadelphia area. The year 1956 was a milestone: He was a smash in his debut at New York ‘s Cafe Bohemin. This was followed by successful appearances at Birdland and the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, setting the stage for international acclaim as the first jazz organ star of note. The past 40-plus years, Smith has toured  internationally and recorded with many of jazz’s biggest names in a variety of contexts, from trios and quartets on up to large ensembles. Collaborating artists have included Wes Montgomery, Oliver Nelson and Kenny Burrell. When Smith moved Los Angeles , he and his wife, Lola, opened a jazz club, Jimmy Smith’s Jazz Supper Club Smith’s aggressive style of organ playing is a unique blend of bop with r&b. 

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