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Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio On JazzSet

Dr. Lonnie Smith.
Benedict Smith
Courtesy of the artist
Dr. Lonnie Smith.

Hammond B3 organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith recently led his trio through a soulful set before a sold-out house at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club in Washington, D.C. The good doctor turns 70 this year, and he's still a leader and innovator on his instrument. He's also gaining a whole new audience, as young musicians and producers sample his deep, relentless grooves.

His guitarist, Jonathan Kreisberg, says that while Smith has recorded some fine studio albums over the years, his music really needs to be heard live to get the full experience. The full array of his artistry is on display throughout this set, which features several tunes off his new album, The Healer, including a mellow version of "Mellow Mood" — written by another organ legend, Jimmy Smith. Dr. Lonnie Smith shows his playful side with a cinematic suite that begins with Harold Mabern's "Beehive" (Smith plays the distinctive Miles Davis-ish "trumpet" lines on one of his many effects pedals), which segues into a surging version of "My Favorite Things." The set closes with "Play It Back," one of the funkiest tunes off Smith's epic album, Live at Club Mozambique, and "Pilgrimage" — the kind of slow, powerful groove that is as much his trademark as are his turban and long white beard.

It's been a long and amazing trip for Dr. Lonnie Smith since the Buffalo, N.Y., native first won Best Organist honors from Downbeat magazine in 1969. This coming May, he plays the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Blue Note label's 75th anniversary concert at the Kennedy Center.

Set List

  • "Mellow Mood" (Jimmy Smith)
  • "When Lights Are Low" (Benny Carter)
  • "Beehive" (Harold Mabern)
  • "My Favorite Things" (Rogers & Hammerstein)
  • "Frame For The Blues" (Slide Hampton)
  • "Play It Back" (Dr. Lonnie Smith)
  • "Pilgrimage" (Dr. Lonnie Smith)
  • Personnel

  • Dr. Lonnie Smith, Hammond B3 organ
  • Jonathan Kreisberg, guitar
  • Jamire Williams, drums
  • Credits

    Scriptwriter and producer: Mark Schramm; Recording engineer and Surround Sound mixer: Duke Markos; Special thanks to Kevin Struthers, Jean Thill and Greg Hartman of Kennedy Center Jazz.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

    Becca Pulliam