Dr. Lonnie Smith (born July 3, 1942 in Lackawanna, New York) is a jazz musician, recognized as a player of both the Hammond B3 organ and piano. Many consider him the world's top jazz organist.
He was born in Lackawanna, New York, (just outside of Buffalo), into a family with a vocal group and radio program. Smith says that his mother was a major influence on him musically, as she introduced him to gospel, classical, and jazz music. He was part of several vocal ensembles in the 1950s, including the Teen Kings. Art Kubera, the owner of a local music store, gave Smith his first organ, a Hammond B3.
His affinity for R&B melded with his own personal style, and he quickly became a local legend. He moved to New York City, where he met George Benson, the guitarist for Jack McDuff's band. Benson and Smith connected on a personal level, and the two formed the George Benson Quartet featuring Lonnie Smith, in 1966.
After two albums under Benson's leadership, (It's Uptown and Cookbook), Smith recorded his first solo album (Finger Lickin' Good) in 1967, with George Benson on guitar, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax, Melvin Sparks on guitar and Marion Booker on drums. This combination remained stable for the next five years.
After recording several albums with Benson, Smith became a solo recording artist and developed a career that has produced over 30 albums under his own name. Several legendary jazz artists have joined Smith on his albums, including Lee Morgan, David "Fat Head" Newman, King Curtis, Blue Mitchell, and Joe Lovano among others.
In 1967, Smith met Lou Donaldson, who put him in contact with Blue Note Records. Donaldson asked the quartet to record an album for Blue Note, Alligator Boogaloo. Blue Note was so impressed by the album that they signed Smith for the next four albums, all of which are now considered classics of soul jazz. This highly influential period produced Think (with Melvin Sparks, Marion Booker, Lee Morgan and David Newman) and Turning Point (with Lee Morgan, Bennie Maupin, Melvin Sparks and Idris Muhammad). The latter is largely regarded as his most seminal studio album.
Smith's next album Move Your Hand was recorded at the Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey in August of 1969. This surprise hit spread allowed his reputation to grow beyond the Northeast. He would record another studio album Drives and one more live album Live at Club Mozambique before leaving Blue Note. Live at Club Mozambique was recorded in Detroit on 21 May 1970, and is considered to be his finest live recording.
Smith toured the northeastern United States heavily during the 1970s. He concentrated largely on smaller neighborhood venues during this period. His sidemen included Ronnie Cuber, Dave Hubbard, Bill Easley and George Adams on sax, Donald Hahn on trumpet, George Benson and Larry McGee on guitars, and Joe Dukes, Sylvester Goshay, Phillip Terrell, Marion Booker, Jimmy Lovelace, Charles Crosby, Art Gore, Norman Connors and Bobby Durham on drums.
Smith has performed at several prominent jazz festivals with artists including Grover Washington, Jr., Ron Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lou Donaldson. He has also played with musicians outside of jazz, such as Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Etta James, Joan Cartwright, and Esther Phillips.
Dr. Smith continues to tour and produce albums (his latest work is Jungle Soul.) When asked why he calls himself 'Doctor', he calmly states that it is for the same reason why he now wears a turban to all of his shows: "No particular reason."
He has been named the "Organ Keyboardist of the Year" in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by the Jazz Journalist Association.
DOWNLOAD:Dr. Lonnie Smith-move your hand (1969) MP3