SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Jimmy Smith, B-3 – Back at the Chicken Shack – Blue Note/EMI/Analogue Productions

May be the best album ever by the quintessential B-3 player Jimmy Smith.

Published on October 19, 2011

Jimmy Smith, B-3 – Back at the Chicken Shack – Blue Note/EMI/Analogue Productions stereo-only SACD CBNJ 84117 SA, 43.8 min. [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

(Jimmy Smith, Hammond B-3; Stanley Turrentine, tenor sax; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Donald Bailey, drums)

This classic B-3 album was first issued on LP by Blue Note in 1963. It has been reissued in several different versions, with this SACD mastering done at the Super Audio Center in Boulder some years ago being the latest. As befits the title, it is somewhat more bluesy and funky than his Midnight Special SACD reviewed here recently and recorded the same day.

It may, in fact, be the best session from this top musician who almost single-handedly popularized the B-3 in jazz. He churns out chunky bass lines on the B-3, completely obviating the need for a doublebass in the combo. But drummer Bailey keeps booting things along famously with his accompaniment, and Kenny Burrell’s guitar playing is superb as usual. Saxist Stanley Turrentine plays one after another super-soulful and gutsy solo.  The whole combo swings like mad with the strongest groove, and it’s such a treat to hear them so transparently—each instrument clearly separated from the others spatially and tonally.

Most of the five tracks are quite lengthy—”Messy Bessie” being 12 ½ minutes long. The opening and title track is a very strong blues (with a killer Turrentine solo), and even the band’s interpretations of the standards in the session sound very bluesy. The original Rudy Van Gelder two-channel analog recording sounds perfect in this hi-res remastering. The four players obviously come out of the bop tradition, but they can also stress the bluesy side of every one of these tunes, creating one of the best soul-jazz albums ever. Even if you have considered B-3 trios and quartets a big bore, try this one and you may change your mind. Plus you get more music than the usual reissue-from- LP along with the clarity of Super Audio. I’ve given up chicken but I really dig biting into this album!

TrackList:
Back at the Chicken Shack, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, Minor Chant, Messy Bessie, On the Sunny Side of the Street.

—John Henry




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