Legacy is a great name for this album because that’s what this musical summit is about. Jimmy Smith, legendary Hammond organ player, passes on the torch to current impresario Joey DeFrancesco. Their paths have crossed many times over the years. Jimmy sat in a on couple of medleys during Joey’s set during the 1999 San Francisco Jazz Festival, which was recorded and released on the album Incredible, but this is their first studio album together. It showcases their gifted skills as they tackle different genres. The joy they experienced in making the album can be heard throughout and is shared by the listener. The recent death of Jimmy on February 8, 2005, adds a touch of poignancy.
The title track, penned by Joey, is a big, sweeping tune. Jimmy plays the Hammond New B-3 organ with great gusto as he does throughout the album, and Joey exchanges solos with him on the Palatino piano. Jimmy is aware how good the track is. Upon its completion, the tape kept rolling and you can hear him saying that the track was “Killer,” and that he wants to hear the playback. The next track is Jimmy’s “Dot Com Blues,” the title track off his 2001 release; Joey joins in on the B-3. Things get softer for the William Reid ballad “I’ll Close My Eyes.” The band creates a soft, tender background for Jimmy to playfully frolic through.
The session men make their talented presences felt on the next few tracks. “Back at the Chicken Shack,” the title track from Jimmy’s 1960 album, is played with a Latin flavor influenced in part by the Banda Brothers, Tony on bass and Ramon on timbales, from the Pancho Sanchez band who Joey had previously recorded with. Joey’s “Jones’n for Elvin” is dedicated to its namesake, allowing Byron Landham to open and close the tune with good drum solos. In the middle of the piece, James Moody’s tenor sax shines. A cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim “Corcovado” sees Joey pulling double duty on the B-3 and a Yamaha Motif 7. The highlight of the number is the lyrical guitar playing of Paul Bollenback.
“I’ve Got My Mojo Workin’” is funky treat that comes to life through Mel Brown’s groovy bass lines. Jimmy growls through the vocals and sounds so good it’s a bit of a disappointment that he doesn’t sing anywhere else on the album. Especially, when the one misstep on the whole album, a cover of Rollins’ “St. Thomas” follows it. I can forgive the lack of sax, but the song sounds a tad corny like something heard on a cruise ship of a hotel lounge.
“Blues for Bobby C.” is as close to a duet as they come with only R. Banda on drums joining them. His cymbal work is outstanding. Once again, you can hear Jimmy and Joey’s competitiveness driving them for the benefit of all of us. The album closes with Jimmy’s “Midnight Special,” another 1960 album title track. He can be heard faintly throughout the track, a proud lion roaring. He closes out the track with a nonsensical scat that wraps up with an “Amen.”
A sentiment I echo for a CD I recommend.