Breathe

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Breathe

Dr. Lonnie Smith and his crushing live unit didn’t know it in 2017, when they recorded these tracks at New York’s Jazz Standard during Smith’s 75th birthday week, but they were documenting the sound and energy of the place for posterity. The Standard shut its doors for good as a result of the pandemic. Breathe allows us back into that room to hear Smith, one of the great Hammond B3 organ stylists, mixing it up with guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, drummer Johnathan Blake, and a potent horn section (John Ellis on tenor sax, Jason Marshall on baritone sax, Sean Jones on trumpet, Robin Eubanks on trombone). Bookending the live portion are two in-studio covers featuring none other than guest vocalist Iggy Pop, Smith’s fellow septuagenarian. Their renderings of Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together” and Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” have a casually bluesy feel, aided by Richard Bravo’s snappy percussion. Arguably even better is Alicia Olatuja’s rousing vocal on “Pilgrimage,” with Smith behind her strongly evoking the sound of the Black church.

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