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Dr. Lonnie Smith (1942-2021)

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Lonnie Smith, who added a Dr. in front of his name to differentiate himself from organist Lonnie Liston Smith and whose funk-driven organ in the 1960s was a key ingredient in many different soul-jazz combos, died on September 28. He was 79.

In addition to his invented moniker, Lonnie's turban, by his own admission, had no religious significance. For him, the name and the look was akin to an artistic statement or character that let him step out of himself. A gentle, humble man away from the keyboard, Lonnie was a groove-maker once he sat down on the Hammond bench, especially in groups led by George Benson and Lou Donaldson.

Here are 10 favorite clips: 

Here's Our Miss Brooks, Lonnie's first recording as a leader, from his Finger Lickin' Good album in 1966, featuring Blue Mitchell (tp), King Curtis (varitone), Ronnie Cuber (bar), Dr. Lonnie Smith (org), George Benson (g), unknown (b) and Jimmy Lovelace (d)...



Here's Jeannine, for the same album but recorded in 1967...



Here's Peepin' from Lou Donaldson's Mr. Shing-a-ling in 1967, with Blue Mitchell (tp), Lou Donaldson (as), Dr. Lonnie Smith (org), Jimmy Ponder (g) and Idris Muhammad (d)...



Here's Slouchin' from Think! in 1968, with Lee Morgan (tp), David “Fathead" Newman (ts,fl), Dr. Lonnie Smith (org), Herman Henry and Melvin Sparks (g), Marion Booker (d), Pucho (timb) and William Bivens and Norberto Apellaniz (cga)...



Here's Seven Steps to Heaven from Drives in 1970, with Dave Hubbard (ts), Ronnie Cuber (bar), Dr. Lonnie Smith (org), Larry McGee (g) and Joe Dukes (d)...



Here's I Feel the Earth Move from Mama Wailer in 1971, with Danny Moore (tp,flhrn), Grover Washington, Jr. (fl,ts,arr), Marvin Cabell and Dave Hubbard (ts), Dr. Lonnie Smith (org) Jimmy Ponder (g), Ron Carter (b), Chuck Rainey (b,el-b), Billy Cobham and William King (d), Airto Moreira, Richard Pratt (perc) and Bob James (arr,cond)...



Here's No Tears Tomorrow from Keep on Lovin' in 1976, with Dr. Lonnie Smith (vcl,org,el-p,synt), Alan Rubin and Randy Brecker (tp), Barry Rogers (tb), David Taylor (b-tb), Fred Griffen (fhr), George Young (fl,as), Lew Del Gatto (fl,bar), Joe Lovano (ts), Jerry Friedman and Lance Quinn (g), Bob Babbitt (el-b), Rick Marotta (d), Jimmy Maelen (perc) and a string section...



Here's My Latin Sky from Gotcha in 1978, with a large orchestra...



Here's Sweet Honey Wine from the same album...



And here's Who Can I Turn To from Alvin Queen's Lenox And Seventh in 1985, with Dr. Lonnie Smith (org), Melvin Sparks (g) and Alvin Queen (d)...



One more? Here's the full album of When the Night Is Right in the late 1970s...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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