Dr. Lonnie Smith’s new release, “The Healer” is quite impressive for several reasons. First, he’s certainly no newcomer to the scene, but after all these years, he can still give a terrific show and has a knack for finding great new talent. Jazz fans will appreciate “The Healer” which features a live trio with Dr. Lonnie Smith playing the organ, joined by guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, and drummer Jamire Williams. The threesome really put the sound down on this album, which definitely falls into the arena of funky soul jazz.
“Backtrack” features a nice, mysterious intro, and you can hear Lonnie sing with the melody he’s playing on his Hammond B3, which then heats up into a burning solo from the guitarist. Krieisberg never runs out of a molten flurry of lines on his solo. When Dr. Smith is out front, there’s a wide range of effects that keep up with him on the organ, giving his performance a bit of spice that’s shaken and stirred in all the right places. The drums never let up on keeping the tempo in the pocket. The next cut is the very funky “Mellow Samba”. Smith takes the lead with some harmony from the guitar. The minor blues have never sounded so cool. The tempo is fast and Jamire never misses the opportunity to generate excitement with his use of cymbals and responding to what the soloists are playing. It’s kind of similar to the attitude of the guitar with James Brown on “Honky Tonk”, locked in with the intensity of the organ solo. The breakdowns are very effective on this song.
Now, Lonnie knows how to sneak a good groove in on you, and “Dapper Dan” is the one. There are no credits for bass on this CD because the traditional players of the B3 handle bass with their left hand and feet. The band falls in after the bass and drums set up the beat for the guitarist to add his part. By this time, listeners can catch where it’s going, and will probably be clapping. Did I mention that Dr. Smith knows how to put on a show?
The dramatic and tasteful approach to the jazz classic “Chelsea Bridge” showcases amazing chords voiced out between the organ and the guitar’s subtle effects enhance this arrangement. “Beehive” shows a fearless approach to using electronic orchestral sounds. Dr. Smith explores dramatic low brass with timpani hits, and high string sounds all building to a fast and intricate classic high speed fusion (i.e., Cobham, McLaughlin, Return to Forever) melody. which are answered with a strong
jazz/rock guitar solo and explosive drums. The clever use of orchestral textures makes this a very interesting composition.
“Pilgrimage”, is a beautiful finale with a Stevie Wonder style wordless vocals with the organ. It’s like a church hymn. The guitar repeats the melody, and very heartfelt solos follow. The drummer keeps your head nodding to the beat, and you feel good that this master of the organ is still making fantastic music that’s engaging, and reaching new generations of soulful jazz fans. Amen.