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Listening Post: Jeff Simon reviews discs by Dr. Lonnie Smith and John Lunn


Dr. Lonnie Smith, “Evolution” (Blue Note). Sadly, on all-too-cursory reading, the publicity people at Blue Note gave the the impression that Dr. Lonnie Smith – 73-year-old red-turbanned organ maestro – is a “native of Detroit” rather than the Lackawanna-born stalwart who developed his “foot-tapping grooves” and “sophisticated harmonic voicings” in Buffalo clubs in bands with his brothers. A better reading of his bio reveal what we know: that he’s one who stars in one of our city’s happier musical legends. Smith himself said that the great Stan Szelest organized a gig for Lonnie and his bros and, to equip them, took him to Kubera’s music store. Smith’s tale is that Art Kubera told him that if he could get the 425-pound Hammond B-3 out of the store’s back room, he could have the thing. And that, children, is a primal moment for a musician who has increasingly been one of the reigning Hammond B-3 masters of blue collar organ jazz. Blue Note, in its current search for roots it could popularize, brought him back into the fold (he got there first in a late ’60s Lou Donaldson record). No one should be surprised by some rhythmic rigidity in the rock rhythms, but the disc is full of surprises along with Smith’s flamboyant and venturesome playing (as much Larry Young as Jimmy Smith.) Pianist Robert Glasper sits in on the opening track, Joe Lovano on two others. Smith’s version of “My Favorite Things” may be one of the precious few you’ll ever hear that owes absolutely nothing to John Coltrane’s. And the final “African Suite” does infectious things with two drummers. When the doctor is in, the music is nothing but healthy. ŒŒŒ. (Jeff Simon)


John Lunn, “Downton Abbey: The Ultimate Collection” featuring musical highlights from all six seasons (Carnival Master/Universal-2-discs). Now that “Downton Abbey” is out of business and the Dowager Countess of Grantham can no longer treat hungry and masochistic Americans on PBS to the weekly British joys of upper-class snobbery and xenophobia, there is no reason why the “Downton Abbey” marketing wave can’t continue in other ways for years – “Downton Abbey” DVDs, scrapbooks, a lace and brocade dress line and who knows what. A “Downton Abbey” pencil box or a “Downton Abbey” catcher’s mitt might be a bit of overreach, but there’s no reason really why miscellaneous Cawleys couldn’t be featured in a “Downton Abbey” coloring book or, especially, a Dowager Countess cane whose silver handle can be massaged for dramatic effect in Maggie Smith manner. Until that time, we have this two-disc set of John Lunn’s music which will, no doubt, call forth suitably “Downton” thoughts in fans as they go about their domestic chores. Among nonfans, crippling boredom is likely. Lunn’s theme music may mislead you. It sounds as if it harkens back to Michael Nyman’s marvelous minimalist music to “The Piano” but it really doesn’t. It is so profoundly undistinguished much of the time that the Dowager Countess herself would, no doubt, be convinced that Americans must have been involved. ŒŒ½ (Jeff Simon)

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